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Scholarship Recognizes First-Generation Students, Honors Family Ancestries

Story By:
Paul Miller | Director of Strategic Communications and Community Relations
First Generation Authors, Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace
Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace

A new scholarship at Keene State College acknowledges the unique challenges faced by immigrants to the United States.

Investigative journalists and novelists Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace have established the Koenig Siddall First Generation Scholarship for students who immigrated to the United States or are the first in their families to be born in the United States. The scholarship also considers financial need and academic standing.

The scholarship honors the first-generation ancestors of Sandra and Rich.

Anna Koenig came to North America as a refugee from the former Yugoslavia after being imprisoned in a concentration camp during World War II. A talented chef, she found work as a live-in housekeeper in Canada, eventually owning her own home and inspiring and helping her granddaughter, Sandra Neil Wallace, become the first in her family to go to college.

As a teenager, Marion McAllister Siddall arrived by ship after a long voyage to the United States from Scotland, arriving through Ellis Island. She worked in a textile mill in Newark, New Jersey. She is the great-grandmother of Rich Wallace, who fondly remembers her Scottish brogue, her wit, her shortbread, and her love of soccer.

Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace are the authors of dozens of award-winning publications. Their 2018 book, First Generation, tells the inspiring stories of the courage, achievement, and determination of 36 trailblazing immigrants and refugees to the United States who have helped to make the country a stronger place.

The husband and wife are also the benefactors of the Global Food Pantry, an initiative at Keene State that began when the college transitioned to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. While most students returned home to complete the semester, international students, and other students unable to arrange to stay on campus, drew support from the pantry.

With support from the Wallace’s nonprofit The Daily Good, the pantry was set up in Keene State’s Office of Multicultural Student Success and Support and continues to operate.

“With COVID-19 upending students’ lives, we wanted them to know that we are always there for them and that the Global Food Pantry didn’t have to go away during the pandemic,” Sandra Wallace said. “Being able to provide weekly deliveries of cultural food items that say ‘home’…is a great joy.”

The Daily Good, according to its website, aims to make a difference in the region by focusing on diversity and inclusion, food security, health and well-being, and literacy.

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