Board Chair Madsen ’85 Launches the Arcadia Financial Aid Initiative with $150,000 Endowed Scholarship Fund

By Erin McLaughlin | September 21, 2020

Trustee Alison Aaron Madsen ’85 and her husband, Howard Madsen.

Last fiscal year in October 2019, Arcadia’s Chair of the Board of Trustees Alison Aaron Madsen ’85 and her husband, Howard Madsen, established The Dan and Gerri Aaron Endowed Scholarship Fund— becoming the very first donors to create an endowed fund through the Arcadia Financial Aid Initiative. In less than a year, eight additional visionary philanthropists have followed their lead in a unified effort to support the growth of the University’s endowed scholarship portfolio. Endowed gifts help to increase the number of funds as well as the size of the scholarship awards Arcadia can make available to deserving University students.

The Madsens, guided by their faith and commitment to service and community, honor Alison’s late parents Dan ’P85 and Geraldine “Gerri” Aaron ’85, ’14H, who were also thoughtful supporters of the University. Designed to bolster the University’s recruitment efforts, their new endowed fund will help to reduce the financial burdens students face in pursuit of a degree and increase a student’s ability to persist to Commencement and earn a degree from Arcadia University.

In establishing the Dan and Gerri Aaron Endowed Scholarship Fund, the Madsens were fundamental in ushering in a new era of scholarship support, taking advantage of the opportunity to double the impact of their commitment under a new program called the Arcadia Financial Aid Initiative (AFAI). Once fully matured, the balance of the Dan and Gerri Aaron Scholarship Fund will be in excess of $300,000.

AFAI is a strategic and student-centered program through which the University seeks to encourage philanthropy designated for financial aid support by providing a 1:1 match for donors who meet established gift minimums to either establish a new endowed scholarship or supplement an existing endowed scholarship. Through the initiative, donors can make an extraordinary impact to financially support the best academic talent, increase Arcadia’s recruitment strength, and provide equitable access to higher education to all who seek it.

“As soon as I heard about the Arcadia Financial Aid Initiative, I knew I wanted to be a part of it,” said Alison. “This initiative allows Arcadia University and its donors to do more in partnership for students than either party could ever achieve alone. And as we increase our endowment, we open doors to bright students who would not otherwise have the opportunity to attend a private, residential university. Endowed scholarships manifest our Arcadia value of social justice through access. My hope is this gift will lead other alumni to see AFAI investment as enhancing our commitment to access and opportunity while also fulfilling our promise of equity.”

As of September 2020, one year after the launch of AFAI, the initiative has helped to grow Arcadia’s portfolio to 85 endowed scholarship funds and increased the balance of two existing funds supplemented with new gifts.

“I am deeply blessed to have the ability to give to Arcadia University and to experience the same sense of fulfillment and joy in giving to others that my parents had experienced during their lifetime,” said Alison. “By establishing this endowed scholarship fund, my husband and I not only honor my parents and perpetuate their values of philanthropy, community, and service, but we also proudly and profoundly support something deeply meaningful to me—the future of Arcadia University and its students.”

Madsen with her mother, Geraldine “Gerri” Aaron ’85P, ’14H at Arcadia’s 2014 Commencement ceremony.

The Aaron family name is one that resonates throughout the Arcadia community and beyond. An inspiring philanthropist and community activist, Alison’s mother Geraldine “Gerri” Aaron ’85P ’14H received an honorary doctor of humanities degree in 2014. Alison’s father, Daniel Aaron ’85P, was one of the originating founders of Comcast. Together, the visionary couple created the Dan Aaron Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (now The Parkinson Council), which helped to found the Dan Aaron Stay Fit Exercise Program in the University’s Department of Physical Therapy.

About Board Chair Alison Aaron Madsen
Appointed to Chair of Arcadia’s Board of Trustees in 2017, Alison has been a Board Member at Arcadia since 2009, serving on several Trustee committees, including Chair of the Enrollment Management/Student Affairs Committee and as a member of the Governance and University Advancement Committees. She was one of the architects of the Arcadia 360 Committee. She also served as Vice Chair of Arcadia’s Presidential Search Committee.

An attorney, Alison is currently a solo practitioner in New Jersey operating a law office that handles a variety of legal transactions. She also was a government prosecutor for 15 years at the state, county, and municipal levels. From 1999 to 2001, she was Director of Judicial Affairs at Rider University, overseeing the enforcement of the University’s Code of Conduct. Alison earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Arcadia, a Juris Doctor from Northeastern University School of Law, and an Education Specialist Degree in Higher Education Administration from Seton Hall University.

Beginning with her first gift in 1989, Alison has an extensive history of generously giving to the University. In 2010, she married her husband Howard, and together they continue to make the philanthropic support of her alma mater a priority. Most recently, in addition to their endowed scholarship, the Madsens have supported the President’s Discretionary Fund at $100,000 and also launched the University into a promising 2021 giving year with the first annual gift to The Fund for Arcadia at the Presidents Circle level of the Jones Poundstone Society.