Papeika Family Honors Parents with Endowed Scholarship at the College of Engineering
The Robert and Andrea Papeika Memorial Endowed Scholarship has been established at the University of Miami to support junior and senior undergraduate students with financial need in the College of Engineering
“The main thing we want the scholarship to provide is assistance for students whose lives have taken a different turn,” said Rachel S. Highland, BSBE ’05 JD ’08 MS’09, who along with her brother, Jonathan Papeika, UMGA ’12, have pledged $100,000 to endow a scholarship that pays tribute to their parents, Robert “Bob” Papeika, BSSA ’76 and Andrea Papeika, BA ’75. “There are plenty of scholarships available for those who are doing well, and we wanted to fill a gap for students who have a lot of potential and who can be great contributors to the world.”
Bob Papeika was raised in Marblehead, MA and began his undergraduate studies at Northeastern University. Because of the recession during the 1970’s, he couldn’t find a placement for his co-op, and upon attending a recruiting fair, an admissions representative from the University of Miami convinced him to transfer. Bob packed his belongings and rode his motorcycle from Boston to Miami, where he studied the emerging field of computing, and made a career in the computer consulting industry. His wife, Andrea (Glass) Papeika, graduated early from high school at the age of 16, earned her associates degree at Miami-Dade College, and transferred to UM, where she studied Public Affairs. Living across the hall from each other, Robert and Andrea met in Eaton Residential College. They were married for 26 years.
Because of their parents’ experience at UM, both Rachel and Jonathan became ‘Canes themselves. Rachel received the Henry King Stanford Scholarship, without which, she says, she would have been unable to enroll at the University. However, the story of her affection for the College of Engineering is intertwined with the loss of her mother. Andrea passed away in 2002 at the beginning of Rachel’s sophomore year. Rachel missed three weeks from school during a year that was already difficult – she was taking 18 credits in the sciences. The tightly-knit family at the College of Engineering helped her navigate the new normal in her life. Upon graduating with the Dean of Students Award for her exemplary leadership, Rachel stayed at UM to earn her JD, while concurrently studying for a Master’s of Science in Occupational Safety & Ergonomics, the first degree of its kind at the College of Engineering. Rachel was recruited to work at the United States Patent & Trademark Office in Washington DC, where she continues to work. She has served as President of the Washington ‘Canes Community. Here she met her husband, Howard, and together they have a one-year old daughter, Josie.
Jonathan was one of the first graduates for the University of Miami Global Academy. Because of health issues, identifying a quality online school rather than a traditional high school was difficult. “I missed so many days in high school, and my dad was determined to help me find an education,” Jonathan said. “He was the one that found UMGA. It was because of him that I went to UM.” UMGA offered him both the flexibility of online, while also retaining small class sizes where the professors know their students’ names. Jonathan was one of eight students in his graduating class, and upon returning years later to celebrate the graduation of a fellow academy student at the Newman Alumni Center, he was pleased to see the graduating cohort had grown to 12. He has since graduated from the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business & Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University with a Bachelor of Science in Management. “Since I’ve graduated, I see how important college is to your life.” He is beginning a career in Real Estate, and looks forward to returning to school for his MBA.
Both Bob and Andrea have since passed away. Their children, Rachel and Jonathan, are both proud UM alumni, who said “we always wanted the scholarship to be named after my parents. It’s nice to honor those who led you.” Rachel and Jonathan both said they are fortunate to now be able to give back. “I don’t think I would have the success I achieved without the support of people that came before me,” Rachel explained. “This is to ensure that the next generation of students is encouraged to succeed in their own ways.” Jonathan added, “Overall, the chance to give a gift to the University gives an opportunity to future students that they may not otherwise have. Who knows what positive results can come from that? I hope that the Papeika Memorial Scholarship helps someone who needs an opportunity and can do well with it.”