It began six years ago in a borrowed conference room with a blank sheet of paper and a cash balance of zero.

It culminated last night in the theatre of the Hearst Tower in New York City with the award of nearly $53,000 in scholarships to 25 college and college-bound students of the graphic arts.

The Graphic Communications Scholarship Award and Career Advancement Foundation, a grassroots campaign on behalf of education, has given about $200,000 in stipends to almost 100 students since the awards were first presented in 2003. At last night’s ceremony, among the recipients were members of the foundation’s first “graduating class”: college seniors who have qualified for scholarship grants from the foundation in each of their four years of study.

Scholarship winners are chosen annually by a judging panel that reviews applicants’ SAT scores, samples, and essays on their plans for careers in graphics. The 25 students honored last night are enrolled or have been accepted for enrollment in graphic studies programs at some of the nation’s most prestigious colleges and universities, including the Rhode Island School of Design, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Parsons School of Design, and the University of Pennsylvania.

The scholarship program is the creation of six people—John Aaron, Mark Darlow, William Dirzulaitis, Steve Kennedy, Jack Kott, and Linda Nahum—who formed an impromptu committee in 2002 to coordinate sources of funds for students in the NYC-metro area. The group initially had no money of its own and kept longhand records of its first attempts at fundraising. A Manhattan printing firm provided the meeting space, but everything else came from the personal efforts of the volunteers.


The foundation's founders, from left: William Dirzulaitis, John Aaron, Steve Kennedy, Linda Nahum, Mark Darlow, and Jack Kott.

Over time, the group became a 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation and the administrator of several pools of scholarship money that had been dormant for lack of active management. It also became a conduit for various scholarships established by printing groups and clubs in the metro area. The foundation continued to pursue its own fund drive, and today its corporate contributors include Hearst Magazines (which provided last night’s venue), Agfa, Apple, Kodak, Quark, Pantone, Xerox and other high-profile vendors to the graphics industry.

The scholarships awarded last night ranged in value from $1,000 to $5,000, and each bore the name of a different corporate or private donor. The number presented is the highest in the program’s six-year history.

Tom Saggiomo, president and CEO of Agfa Graphics North America, keynoted the ceremony and accepted the foundation’s Champion of Education Award for his leadership in training and education for print. Among other roles, he serves as chairman of the board of the Graphic Arts Education and Research Foundation.

Tom Saggiomo

Tom Saggiomo, president and CEO, Agfa Graphics North America, keynoted the presentation ceremony.

Saggiomo congratulated the students and told them that their generation could expect opportunities for “good, solid job growth” in graphic communications, a sector that still ranks as the nation’s third-largest industrial employer. His advice to print business owners: “Every day, make sure your employees leave work a little smarter than when they arrived.”

Awards also went to Darlow, the foundation’s spearhead and first president, and to Dirzulaitis, its treasurer and financial strategist.

“Don’t forget the printing industry,” Dirzulaitis urged the students, some of whom will use their grants to study video game design, digital animation, web site architecture, and other non-print areas of graphic communications. Printing, he them, “is a tremendous opportunity that sometimes gets forgotten by people of your age.”

A roster of the 2008 scholarship winners will be posted at, where complete information about the program can be obtained.