The story behind the scholarship: The Slavcoff Legacy

This story originally appeared in the September issue of the GēDUNK, Grove City College’s award-winning alumni magazine. Click here to see the entire issue.

Born more than a century ago in Bulgaria, Alexander Slavcoff ’27 (1900-1983) came to Grove City College via New York, where he arrived nearly broke and took on any work he could find, and Youngstown, Ohio, where he worked in various jobs and learned English – at the age of 20 – with a class of eighth graders.

Twenty years later, he had graduated from medical school and was on his way to building a successful urology practice in Harrisburg. With his wife, fellow Grover Dorothy Strain ’29 (1908–1993), he raised two children – Louise (Slavcoff ’56) Baird and John Slavcoff ’60 – and began a family legacy of philanthropy and service to the College.

Dr. Slavcoff achieved the American dream through hard work, thrift, and enterprise, but he could not have made it without the help of others. His journey to America and education presented huge financial challenges for a hard-working young man from a poor village who, when asked once by a loan officer what collateral he had, answered: “I own the clothes I am wearing.”

A $200 loan from a family friend in Bulgaria who had found success in America financed Dr. Slavcoff’s journey to the U.S. He worked his way through Grove City College, but it would cost a lot more than he could make working at a greenhouse to get through medical school. After he was turned down for a loan at one bank in town, a banker from the other took a chance on the ambitious immigrant and co-signed the note.

In 1930, with the country in the depths of the Depression, jobs for a new college graduate like Dorothy Strain were scarce and Slavcoff, a penniless medical student with a growing debt of $11,000 – a little more than $200,000 today – might not have seemed like a good prospect. Even so, she accepted his proposal. It was the beginning of a 54-year love affair of a marriage.

As Dr. Slavcoff finished medical school, went to work at a state hospital and later into private practice, paying off the medical school loan was a priority. By 1946, it was done and the Slavcoffs began “paying it forward” by sending care packages to Bulgaria. In the 1950s, the family developed deeper ties to Grove City College and started sponsoring international students. Dr. Slavcoff served on the Board of Trustees, a role his daughter and granddaughter Allyson (Baird ’88) Sveda would later share.

“Dad’s appreciation for the opportunities he had been given to achieve his ambition … and the values he saw expressed at the College when they spent time on campus combined to make him want to help other immigrants go to Grove City College,” John Slavcoff said in a letter outlining his parents’ legacy.

“Alexander Slavcoff’s life was a pattern of hard work followed by unanticipated opportunities and reward,” his son observed. Dorothy, he said, “was part and parcel of everything Dad did.”

The Dr. Alexander Slavcoff ’27 and Dorothy Strain Slavcoff ’29 Memorial Scholarship Fund is one of more than 400 named scholarships available to Grove City College students, two-thirds of whom receive financial aid through the College.

Establishing a scholarship provides a unique opportunity to create a legacy that is both personal and far-reaching. Scholarships can honor a loved one, build a legacy, or encourage students pursuing a particular major. One of Grove City College’s priorities is to make our outstanding educational experience accessible to students with academic potential who also have financial need. A gift of any size joins with those from a community of donors to assist students who may not otherwise be able to afford the Grove City College experience.

Interested in supporting scholarships at Grove City College? Visit gcc.edu/givenow.

The story behind the scholarship: The Slavcoff Legacy

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