(Posted February 9, 2015)

Marcus Lee of the Juniata basketball team uses his left hand effectively in a jump-ball situation.
Marcus Lee of the Juniata basketball team uses his left hand effectively in a jump-ball situation.

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Ignored by many product manufacturers around the world, being left-handed poses challenges for many of those who exemplify this unique trait. Still, a few studious southpaws can finally seek refuge at Juniata College, a small, liberal-arts college in Huntingdon, Pa., where lefties can get financial assistance for their education

"We pick one or two students a year," says Diane Ross, Juniata's assistant director of student financial planning, of the school's Beckley Scholarship, which offers assistance to lefties. "It's a need-based scholarship and it's centered around three components: the student is left-handed, the student has financial need, and the student has done well academically. Once I award it to the qualified student, he or she will continue to get it until they graduate." ??

The scholarship is reserved for only sophomores, juniors or seniors attending Juniata College. The stipend cannot be applied to other institutions. According to Shane Himes, Juniata's director of student financial planning, answering the final question on Juniata's individual data form identifies lefties. "Most students aren't aware that the scholarship even exists," says Himes, "so they are probably thinking it's just a random question on a data form." The scholarship recipients are chosen from left-handers that have top academic records.

"When I was applying to colleges, I realized that many colleges have a scholarship for everything, but I didn't see one for left-handed students," says Melina Olivas, a Juniata sophomore from Hershey, Pa. who received the Beckley scholarship, "When I came to Juniata, I was surprised to discover that they do offer a scholarship award for left-handers, so I said to myself, I'll take that because I love being left-handed."

Students like Melina have been able to become much more informed about the left-handed scholarship since the dawn of social media, which has significantly decreased the amount of phone calls regarding the scholarship received by Juniata's office of student financial planning.

"When I came to Juniata, I was surprised to discover that they do offer a scholarship award for left-handers, so I said to myself, I'll take that because I love being left-handed."

Melina Oilivas, Juniata sophomore, Hershey, Pa.

"Ten years ago when we were just advertising the scholarship, people did not know that you had to attend Juniata, so we were getting maybe 20-25 calls a week. Now we get about 15 a year because people are more informed ever since social media," says Ross, "We've been really good at getting it out there that this is only for a Juniata College student. Before social media, we would get letters by mail from students every single day who were interested in the scholarship. We went from letters to calls and now the volume of calls has decreased drastically due to social media."

John Wall, director of media relations, still gets three or four inquiries a week for the scholarship. "Many of the callers and email inquiries mistakenly think the scholarship is a full ride and that they can apply it to any college or university," he says. "Part of the problem is that social media platforms lack the space to explain the nuances of the scholarship."
The scholarship is a chance for lefties to take the upper hand, so to speak. Although, there are some misunderstandings that often surround this unique financial aid opportunity.

"A lot of students and parents find us because of the advertisements out there for the left-handed scholarship, which is fantastic because then they really do end up liking us," says Sarah Diane Sadowsky, Juniata's assistant dean of enrollment, "The hard part is that they often think this particular scholarship is something you get coming into freshmen year at Juniata. It's a matter of helping them understand that it's something you apply for your first year and that it's a need-based scholarship. Academics are only a portion of it. Students who qualify for the scholarship should apply for it their freshmen year."

The late Mary Francis Beckley, a former Juniata student, with a bequest of $24,000, established Juniata's left-handed scholarship in 1979, worth $1,000 to $1,500 a year to lefties. The story behind Juniata's "lefty" scholarship dates back to 1919 when Mary Francis, a student taking tennis classes, was paired with fellow student, Frederick Beckley. Their coaches must not have been able to envision the young duo as professional tennis players, although left-handedness is seen as an advantage in tennis. The Beckleys were married in 1924.

Juniata's left-handed scholarship has helped emancipate lefties from marginalization due in large part because the unique financial aid package has been featured in such media outlets as the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the "Today Show" on NBC-TV and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Being a lefty is not so uncommon after all. Take it from some famous lefties like guitarist Jimi Hendrix, musician Ringo Starr, entertainers Robert DeNiro, Keanu Reeves and Angelina Jolie, and politicians Al Gore and Colin Powell. Even President Barack Obama and Prince William have the left-handed trait.

The Beckley scholarship is open to any student who demonstrates financial need as well as academic success. The only stipulation for the scholarship is that the student is left-handed.

By Laura Bancroft '15, Juniata Associate in Media Relations

Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.