Elon family endows new Odyssey Program scholarship

A generous gift from Robert and Rosemary Baffi P’17 will increase scholarships in Elon’s nationally recognized Odyssey Program. Creating more endowed scholarships is the top priority of the Elon LEADS Campaign.

For Elon parents Robert and Rosemary Baffi P’17, higher education is a passion and an interest that fuels their support for Elon University students, most recently through a generous gift endowing the Baffi Family Odyssey Program Scholarship. The couple’s gift will fund two Baffi Scholars each year.

Robert and Rosemary Baffi.

The Baffis, who are from the San Francisco area, believe in the power of education and the importance of being mentors. Both earned undergraduate and graduate degrees en route to successful careers. Rob Baffi is retired as president of Global Manufacturing and Technical Operations for BioMarin Pharmaceutical and now serves as a special adviser to the chairman and CEO. Rosemary Baffi is retired from institutional equity sales at Montgomery Securities.

“We are both first-generation college graduates,” Rosemary Baffi said. “We had Depression-era parents. They didn’t go to college, but they wanted to make sure we went to college.”

The idea to endow a scholarship in the Odyssey Program evolved over time, the couple says. Both are mentors to middle and high school students looking for career guidance or help with college applications.

“Helping students find opportunities is in the forefront of what we’ve done,” Rob Baffi said.

“We were always thinking about how to give and what to give since our early days with Elon,” Rosemary Baffi said. “As I gained knowledge about the Odyssey Program, the more we knew it was the right thing. The program is so impressive.”

The Odyssey Program: A national model for access and success

Odyssey Program scholarships are awarded based on academic success and high financial need. The program serves students who are frequently the first members of their family to attend college and have achieved academic success while overcoming adversity. They are consistently among Elon’s top-performing students.

The Odyssey program is an extensive, cohort-based program that creates a family atmosphere among students and fosters mentoring, friendships and personal growth. Each Odyssey scholarship includes financial assistance that meets a student’s full need. In addition to annual tuition assistance, each scholarship includes a stipend for books and supplies, and a one-time $4,000 global study grant to be used for an approved study abroad or Study USA program. Based in Elon’s Center for Access and Success, Odyssey is recognized as a national model for serving high-need students who are often underrepresented on college campuses.

Increasing funding for Odyssey and other scholarship programs is the top priority of the $250 million Elon LEADS Campaign.

The importance of endowed scholarships in the Odyssey Program can’t be overstated, said Jim Piatt, vice president for university advancement, and neither can the importance of dedicated support from Elon families like the Baffis.

“The success of students in our Odyssey Program is testament to the powerful way that endowed scholarships can change the course of a young person’s life,” Piatt said. “We are grateful to Rob and Rosemary for creating more opportunities for students to follow their dreams.”

Tait Arend, ’96, G’00, senior director of development, said Elon is incredibly grateful to the Baffis for allowing the university to use their gift as one of the matches used to inspire more donations on Elon Day.

“Matching gifts on Elon Day spark the interest of thousands of donors who are inspired to support scholarships and other university initiatives,” Arend said. “We thank Rob and Rosemary for being leaders and supporting a very successful Elon Day this year.”

Seeking to help Elon students

The Baffis became Elon supporters when their daughter Jane ’17 enrolled. A second-floor engagement lounge in Richard W. Sankey Hall is named for the family. They also made gifts to support student scholarships. Rosemary Baffi said the couple was interested in a larger philanthropic effort. A friend advised them to find something they are passionate about and to make a commitment to it. The global shutdown during the COVID-19 pandemic offered an opportunity for the couple to consider options.

“2020 was a unique year. Robert stopped going to the office. We spent more time at home together, so we had more time to discuss things. We had what I call ‘The Great Pause’ and had time to talk about it,” Rosemary Baffi said. “We were on the cusp of retirement and ready to do something bigger. We never thought we would make a scholarship of this magnitude.”

The Baffis studied the Odyssey Program to determine if the graduation rate is high for students in the program and were impressed that 90% of students in the program earn their degree. They also wanted to ensure that Odyssey students had opportunities to take part in the same Elon Experiences their daughter could when she was an Elon student.

Rosemary Baffi was impressed by support within the Odyssey Program that help students develop life skills that will aid their post-graduation lives and careers. Help for students within the cohort is also important.

“I was so impressed that it’s not just a financial arrangement. People come to college with all sorts of skill sets, life skills that students within the Odyssey Program might not have. They make sure scholars graduate with the skill sets they need to succeed after graduation,” she said. “I read extensively about higher education. A lot of the scholarship students do not finish at other schools. They feel like fish out of water. They don’t have a cohort and feel very alone. It’s one of those gaps I see out there.”

For Bob Baffi the mentoring aspect within the Odyssey Program struck a chord. He said he owes his career to a mentor who guided him in graduate school.

The Baffis were able to use higher education as a springboard to successful careers, which gave their children advantages when they attended college. The couple want other students to have a similar pathway to success.

“My dad’s proudest moment was our graduations,” Rosemary said. “I wish he was alive to see our children graduate. He would have been so proud. It was so important to him.”

About the Elon LEADS Campaign

With a $250 million goal, Elon LEADS is the largest fundraising campaign in the university’s history and will support four main funding priorities: scholarships for graduates the world needs, increase access to engaged learning opportunities such as study abroad, research and service learning, support for faculty and staff mentors who matter and Elon’s iconic campus. As of  March 31,donors have contributed $210 million toward the goal.

Every gift to the university—including annual, endowment, capital, estate and other planned gifts—for any designation counts as a gift to the campaign, which will support students and strengthen Elon for generations to come. To learn more about how you can make an impact, visit www.elonleads.com.