Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Provides WNY Native with Full Scholarship


Buffalo native, Ryan Bartels is embarking on the next journey of his life. In April, he was awarded the 2012 Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Jefferson Scholarship at the University of Virginia. 

The scholarship is a four year, full ride merit based scholarship which focuses on areas of leadership, citizenship and scholarship. It includes four years of full tuition, room, board, books and a stipend for miscellaneous expenses. 

Bartels, a recent graduate of Canisius High School was ecstatic upon winning the scholarship. Hearing about the scholarship from his fellow teammates on the rowing team, he immediately applied and took a chance at the opportunity.

"At the end of my junior year, The University of Virginia was one of my top schools," said Bartels. "A few friends on the rowing team had applied for the program in the past which is how I learned about it.  Ever since I've been young I always wanted to go there. It was a great opportunity so I went for it and ended up getting lucky."

The selection process is quite rigorous.  Over 1,100 senior high school students from across the country and internationally are nominated and compete for the scholarship at a regional level.  Approximately 100 attend the national selection weekend in Charlottesville, and 30 will attend the University as Jefferson Scholars each year.

The high school graduate has always been a part of academic leadership. As an integral part of the Canisius rowing team, he exemplified courage and although not a captain shared with his teammates what it takes to work as a whole.

"I have been a part of the Canisius rowing team for the past four years, which has played a big part in my career," said the Jefferson Scholar awardee. "Although I was not a captain, it allowed me to be a leader on the team because a lot of the guys looked up to me as someone who had done well at the national level. I taught my teammates not to be cocky no matter how well we do."

Bartels was selected for a series of interviews, and attended a dinner to meet other finalists and panel judges.

"A few weeks later, I got called back for the second interview," said Ryan. "They alerted me that I was one of the two finalists in the area. The other one was Gabi Jehle who went to my grade school, which I thought was cool."

Gabi Jehle also received a small scholarship from the Jefferson Scholars Foundation and will be attending the University of Virginia this fall.

Upon receiving the scholarship, Bartels received a personalized letter from Mr. Wilson congratulating him on his success.

"He congratulated me and let me know he is a University of Virginia graduate himself, which I thought was very neat," said Bartels. "I hope I can live up to his expectations. I am very grateful for his being a benefactor for the scholarship."

The scholarship means the world to the recent graduate. To be able to attend a university that he would not have been able to attend without the scholarship is a dream come true.

"I wouldn't have been able to attend this university without this scholarship," said Bartels. "This scholarship is making education possible for me, and I am ever grateful for that."

Ryan knows that college is just the next chapter in his life, and he is fully ready to take the reins.

"Choosing a college is the biggest decision of your life, and going to this university is going to shape the rest of my life."

Bartels encourages other incoming seniors to learn more about the scholarship program and take a stab at applying.

"At the beginning of the process, I didn't think I had a shot," said Ryan. "I worked hard and was genuine throughout the process. Other seniors who want to go after this gift should."

Ralph C. Wilson, Jr endowed the scholarship to the Jefferson Scholars Foundation at the University of Virginia which created a Buffalo Regional Selection Committee that made Buffalo secondary schools eligible to nominate students to receive the scholarship.  The Buffalo Regional Selection process has been in place since 2003 and is made up of the following members, made up of local alumni of the University and Buffalo Community Leaders.

Mary McLean Wilson

Bradley J.  Butler

Charles G.  Duffy

Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker 

Gretchen Geitter

Dr. Mark Robert Jensen

Stephen J. McCabe

Mary McLean Owen  (Regional Selection Chair)

Gretchen Lee Wylegala For more information on the Jefferson Scholarship, visit http://www.jeffersonscholars.org/.

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