Khamille Heads To UConn, Loan-Free

Jack Paulishen PhotoKhamille Turnage was bracing to take on thousands of dollars in student loans for her freshman year of college—until a man who graduated from her school a half-century ago sent some of his fortune her way.

Turnage (pictured) and nine other James Hillhouse High seniors received $10,000 college scholarships at a ceremony at the school Wednesday evening. The scholarships came thanks to one generous alumnus, Dr. Eugene Pergament, Hillhouse Class of 1951. In July 2009, Pergament donated $1 million to his alma mater in order to fund ten $10,000 scholarships per year, from 2010 through 2020. 

After the ceremony, Turnage needed to call the financial aid office at the University of Connecticut to cancel the loans she requested for next year. She said she was thrilled about the scholarship, which she didn’t know she had won until the announcement at the awards ceremony.

“I’m so shocked, and I just can’t stop smiling,” Turnage said. “I was even crying onstage.”

Her mom, Cennetta Turnage, said Khamille’s hard work was paying off.

“I’m a single mother with two kids, and I just don’t have the money to pay for college expenses,” Cennetta Turnage said. “But this is why I’ve always pushed her so hard in school—-so that she could earn the money herself with scholarships.”

Turnage was one of about 20 Hillhouse students who applied for the $10,000 grant. Hillhouse administrators selected the scholarship criteria and choose each year’s winners. Students had to send in a transcript, letters of recommendation and an essay about how they would use the scholarship money.

In her essay, Turnage wrote that she had won a Presidential Scholars award that will pay for her tuition at UConn. But she faced another $5,234 per year of expenses that wouldn’t be covered by the scholarship. That entire $5,234 would have fallen on Khamille’s shoulders, her mom explained.

Students were handed aplaques by New Haven Public School Superintendent Reginald Mayo. As he took the podium, Mayo accidentally referred to the awards as “$10 scholarships,” but he quickly corrected himself after a roar of laughter from the audience.  Mayo expressed his gratitude to the alumnus donor, who chose not to attend the ceremony.

“I’ve heard that [Dr. Pergament] doesn’t want a lot of personal recognition for this, but somehow we’ve got to try to get him to New Haven and recognize this man, to honor him the way that he should be honored,” Mayo said to the audience. 

Mayo may get that chance next year, when Hillhouse hosts the Class of 1951 for its 60th reunion.  That event might draw Pergament from Chicago, where he works as the founder and director of a genetic testing firm, and as a professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

In fact, Khamille Turnage hopes to follow in her benefactor’s footsteps.  She’s hoping to fulfill her pre-med requirements while an undergraduate at UConn, then attend UConn’s Medical School and become a pediatrician. 

For now, Turnage had six words for the man who got rid of those loans for her: “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Jack Paulishen Photo


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posted by: S. Poole on June 3, 2010  4:55pm

This exactly the type of publicity and exposure our young people need.  The good Dr.‘s philanthropic venture will indeed impact the development of tomorrow’s leaders.

Congratulations students!!  (Especially you two!)

Mr. Poole

posted by: Curlena on June 3, 2010  11:07pm

This is a wonderful thing. To whom much is given, much is required. Dr. Eugene Pergament’s gifts will change the lives of ten individuals for the better. Young people, take this opportunity and run with it.  This is your chance to make a difference, to plant in good ground and multiply the blessings of God.

posted by: Hood Rebel on June 4, 2010  7:56am

Congratulations to Khamille and all the other recipients of this terrific philanthropic gift. Continue to make the community proud. You are prime examples of the best of New Haven—regardless of where you grew up and went to school. Hold on to your values and keep doing the right things toward college graduation in May 2014.

posted by: Dr. Ed Joyner on June 5, 2010  5:41pm

This is an excellent example of what students can achieve when they are committed to hard work, good manners, and a belief in themselves and the teachers and administrators who work so tirelessly on their behalf. Mrs. Joyner deserves a great deal of credit for cultivating the relationship with Dr. Pergament. Dr. Pergament deserves a place in heaven for reaching back to help students who help themselves. No school reform will be successful for students who fail to invest in themselves. These young people attended school with the right intentions and have reaped the benefit. They still have miles to go before they sleep, but they are traveling in the right direction. I hope that they will give back in the same fashion as their benefactor when they achieve success. We should build a statue of Dr. Eugene Pergament. May his example inspires others to give what they can.