Kindling the Spirit of Giving: Scholarship Student Turns Supporter

April 21st, 2013 / Advancement

Anna Raytcheva '94

Photo: Jon Roemer

Anna Raytcheva journeyed across oceans and cultures from Bulgaria in 1990, arriving at Princeton as the first recipient of the Gary T. Capen Family Scholarship for International Women.

Now she is the first Capen Scholar to give back to that fund.

“When you’re part of the Princeton community,” says Raytcheva ’94, “you realize how many alumni have this drive, this motivation, to make a difference in the world. That’s what Mr. and Mrs. Capen have done. It’s an example that makes you want to participate in providing opportunity to others.”

Gary Capen ’59 established the scholarship in 1986, with just such opportunity in mind. He had traveled extensively with his wife, Joan, and their three daughters, and was struck by what he saw in Eastern Europe—both its beauty and its need. “It’s an area that has suffered so much throughout history,” he says. When the possibility of supporting a student from that part of the world crossed his desk, he was instantly interested.

Raytcheva says the scholarship fund was an “amazing gift,” and credits Capen for recognizing the crucial role education can play in the lives of women. “It was an enormous privilege for me to come to Princeton University,” she says. “And from day one, I knew that I could not have attended without the Capen Scholarship.”

Each year, more than 3,000 undergraduates receive scholarships from funds established by alumni and friends. Students are encouraged to write to their scholarship donors, and the overwhelming majority do. Many donors write back, creating a connection that often turns into a lasting friendship.

 

She left communist Bulgaria for Princeton only months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, graduated with honors, and became a trader at CitiGroup in New York. At the heart of her time at Princeton was a relationship with the Capen family that grew to include holiday dinners, summer vacations, and advice that helped Raytcheva manage an undergraduate education thousands of miles from home.

“Anna became like a daughter to us,” says Capen, who believes personal relationships enhance philanthropy for all involved. When Raytcheva walked down the aisle as a bride in Sofia, Bulgaria, the Capens were there, five beaming faces all the way from Wayzata, Minnesota. And over dinner in a Manhattan restaurant one night last year, Raytcheva surprised the Capens with the news of her intended gift.

Capen was stunned. “I said to her, ‘Anna, ‘that’s fantastic.’”

“Just tell me how to do it,” she replied.

Capen laughs, remembering how deeply moved he was, thrilled to be part of an expanding circle of philanthropy.

“This gift is a very big deal for us,” he says.

Raytcheva plans to add to the scholarship over the years and looks forward to supporting future generations of Princetonians.

“One day,” she says, “I hope to do more.”