Terry Huffington and Ralph Dittman P'11, '14 Fund Scholarship for Indonesian Students

March 11, 2014

Wesleyan parents Terry Huffington and Ralph Dittman have donated to financial aid and environmental programming throughout their daughters' undergraduate careers. Recently they made a generous new commitment through the Huffington Foundation: $1.2 million to endow the Huffington Freeman Scholarship, which will support high-need students from Indonesia in perpetuity. This gift reflects both their appreciation of Wesleyan and their attachment to Indonesia.

As a Texas native, Terry Huffington didn't know much about Wesleyan when she first accompanied her high school student daughter on a visit. "Our tour guide was a triple major—physics, Science in Society, and something else—very Wesleyan. Sydney felt an immediate connection." Sydney Dittman, who graduated in 2011, double-majored in Neuroscience & Behavior and Religion and, with a strong interest in alternative and complementary medicine, is now in medical school, following in her father's footsteps. An Earth and Environmental Sciences major, her sister Lindsay ’14 has also studied government and language, and received the Cole Prize for a piece of creative nonfiction writing.

"We love Wesleyan," Terry Huffington asserts. "Early on we were impressed to hear President Roth say that it's great to question and stir things up, but that's not enough—you should take action to bring about positive change."

Terry Huffington's father was a geologist and oilman. He worked at the beginning of his career for the Humble Oil and Refinery Company, then struck out on his own in the U. S. His first overseas business trip, at age fifty, was to Indonesia, and in 1972 he decided to bring his whole family over to see the country. Terry Huffington was fascinated from the start. When she entered college at Stanford, Indonesia was her focus, and she followed a liberal arts curriculum of language, history, anthropology, and political science classes. "Indonesia rewards study—it's amazingly culturally rich. But," she explains, "at that time there was no Southeast Asian major, and I was not driven to specialize in East Asia."

Her mother suggested that she look into her father's passion, geology. Reluctantly, feeling "rocks are boring," Terry Huffington signed up for a geology course that happened to be taught by a wonderful professor and fell in love with the new subject. After a fulfilling career as a geologist, Terry Huffington now runs a farm guided by permaculture principles. "It's completely different, but there's still a connection with the earth, and with experimentation."

For several years Ralph Dittman and Terry Huffington had been aware of the Freeman Asian Scholars program, which since 1995 has brought highly talented students from eleven Asian countries to Wesleyan annually. When they learned that the program urgently needed additional funding to continue, they decided to endow a scholarship for a high-need student from Indonesia. Besides the family connection, "Indonesia is important to the global economy and the global ecology," Terry Huffington notes. "And bringing Indonesian students here is enriching for them and also for us." Honoring the fact that "Freeman has such a good reputation in Asia," Ralph Dittman and Terry Huffington dedicated their fund as the Huffington Freeman Scholarship.

In another twist of this family story, Terry Huffington mentions that years ago her father endowed a scholarship for an Indonesian student at Harvard Business School. She has learned that a recent recipient was a Wesleyan graduate, probably, Terry Huffington suspects, a Freeman Scholar. "Truly," she says, "this is a case of being absolutely thrilled we could help this program extend in perpetuity. I hope other families out there will want to help."

The first Huffington Freeman Scholar will be named this September, from the incoming Class of 2018. Learn more.