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New Scholarship Honors a Commitment to Education

In memory of her life and legacy as a nurse, the family of Lori Chesna Ayanian, PAR’86, established a new scholarship at Penn Nursing to support the next generation of nursing leaders. 

The actions of one person can have an impact on an individual’s life that reverberates through generations. For Lori Chesna Ayanian, PAR’86, that one person was the first Dean of Syracuse University School of Nursing, Dean Edith H. Smith. It is their story which has led to the Ayanian and Pereles families establishing the Lori Chesna Ayanian Family Nursing Endowed Scholarship Fund at Penn Nursing.

Born in 1936, the daughter of a coalminer from Scranton, Pennsylvania, Lori had little to nothing when she began her nursing education at Syracuse. When finances threatened her ability to continue at the school, Lori approached Dean Smith to let her know she would not be able to stay. The Dean assured Lori that all she had to do was focus on her grades, and she would find a way to support her education. The Dean held true to her word throughout Lori’s four years at Syracuse, and after graduating in 1959, Lori quickly took a job in the area practicing and teaching obstetrics. 

It was there where Lori would also meet her future husband, Zaven, a medical student at the time. They would go on to have three children, Susan Ayanian Pereles, Nu’86; Mark A. Ayanian, M’89; AND John Z. Ayanian. When Lori and Zaven reached the point where they could make a significant contribution to Syracuse University, they decided to endow a scholarship at the nursing school to honor Lori’s Dean who had played such a significant role in her life. In 2006, Syracuse would close their nursing school, and move the endowed scholarship to another health-related discipline. 

When Lori passed away in 2013, her family knew the most fitting way to pay tribute to her incredible life was to again support the education of future deserving nursing students - so she could again impact their lives as Dean Smith had impacted hers.

“For my mother, education was her escape out of poverty,” said Susan Ayanian Pereles, Nu’86. “That was her way of thriving and surviving - and for the rest of her life she continued to place great value on the importance of an education and the importance of giving back.”

With several family connections to Penn - both Susan’s brother Mark, M’89, and husband Daniel J. Pereles, C’83, M’87, are graduates - the family felt that Penn Nursing was the perfect place to continue Lori’s legacy. 

“My mom was always so proud of my time at Penn Nursing, and how the School had prepared me to practice as a nurse while pursuing leadership roles and advanced education,” said Pereles. “Penn Nursing spearheads leaders, and we as a family hope that recipients of this scholarship will go on to become leaders in the profession and drive needed change throughout healthcare.”