Central College News

Central Receives Gift from Paul Poppen to Establish Social Justice Programs, Diversity Scholarship

Featured: Central Receives Gift from Paul Poppen to Establish Social Justice Programs, Diversity Scholarship

August 23, 2021

Central College will receive a generous gift of $500,000 from Paul Poppen, a 1969 Central graduate, to establish the Poppen Fund for Social Justice Programs and the Poppen Diversity Scholarship.

The Poppen Fund for Social Justice Programs will support funding requests in areas of social justice, including legal, health, financial and environmental. The program will support research, scholarship, education and remedial activities at Central while encouraging student involvement in issues of social justice. This includes collaborative research with faculty and students; development of workshops for faculty; new courses; and visitors and guest lecturers.

“Even though we aspire to have liberty and justice for all in this country, it’s not necessarily equal,” Poppen says. “Some of the facts we’ve known for a long time about social equity haven’t been brought into a framework where people can really think about and discuss them to try to figure out what we can do to make things better. And I want to encourage the Central community to listen, to learn and to do what they can.”

The Poppen Diversity Scholarship will support students of diverse backgrounds underrepresented in higher education.

“It has been a great honor and privilege working with Paul, and we are so incredibly grateful for his transformational gift to establish a new fund at Central to support diversity, equity and inclusion across our campus community. His passion for social justice work and his spirit of philanthropy is inspiring,” says Michelle Wilkie, director of development at Central.

“As I reflect on our very first conversation when Paul shared this seed of an idea, I think about how it grew into something so remarkable,” she adds. “The Poppen Fund for Social Justice Programs will provide the critical funding needed to strengthen our efforts as we continue to build a world that is more equitable and just for all. A vision that Paul and so many of us share. This work has always been and will continue to be of great importance at the college. Having a heart for others is at the core of who we are as an institution. I think Paul really exemplifies that notion. We are all excited to see how this new fund creates meaningful change and positive impact moving forward.”

Poppen majored in psychology at Central and received a Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1973. He is the Thelma Hunt Professor of Psychology at George Washington University in Washington, D.C, where he has taught for nearly 50 years. He served as chair of the department of psychology for 12 years.

Poppen’s research in the past decade has focused on gender, culture and health, especially HIV/AIDS. He is on the executive committee of the George Washington University HIV/AIDS Institute and is a consulting editor to two journals: AIDS Education and Prevention and Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology. In 1991, he was honored with a Central Alumni Award.