Schlager Family Gift Creates New Opportunities

Colby is pleased to announce that Ivan and Martha Schlager P’20 have donated $1 million to the Dare Northward campaign to create a financial aid fund for first-generation students and an internship to encourage students to pursue careers in national security.

The Schlager Family Financial Aid Fund for First-Generation Students will support scholars who are the first in their family to attend college, while the Schlager Family Internship Fund for National Security Studies will leverage the College’s resources and network of alumni and parents in greater Washington, D.C., to create career opportunities for students in the national security and intelligence communities.

The Schlagers said they were motivated to make this gift to Colby because their son Ethan ’20 flourished during his time on Mayflower Hill. He majored in government and was a leader on and off the court for the Colby men’s basketball team. Ethan Schlager is now serving in the U.S. Marine Corps as a first lieutenant infantry officer. In addition to receiving an excellent education and learning about team-building, discipline, and leadership, he forged lasting relationships at Colby that have benefited him in his military career. 

“This gift is important to us because our son had an excellent experience at Colby, and I am a first-generation college student myself. I know the power of education and how it changed my life,” said Ivan Schlager, an international trade and national security partner with the Washington office of the law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP. He is a former chief counsel and staff director of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and he has spent his career involved in government and policy with expertise in foreign trade.

Said Martha Schlager, “We are thrilled to make this gift and create the possibility of transforming the lives of others.”

Colby President David A. Greene thanked the couple for their gift. “We are incredibly grateful to the Schlagers for their vision and generosity,” he said. “Theirs is a powerful story about how education opens doors of opportunity—not only for the students themselves but for generations to follow.”

Vice President and Chief Institutional Advancement Officer Matt Proto echoed President Greene’s sentiment stating, “The Schlagers’ ongoing commitment to support students who will be the first in their families to graduate college, as well as current Colby students, is truly extraordinary. We are extremely appreciative of their thoughtfulness and support.”

Ivan Schlager draws a direct line from his career in the U.S. Senate and his work as a national security attorney to his own college education. The Schlager Family Financial Aid Fund will fully support the Colby education of first-generation students so they can aspire to careers and lives they otherwise might not have imagined.

“My father was a house painter in the Los Angeles area, and when I went to work with my dad in one of those big, lovely homes, I asked, ‘How do you get a house like this?’ He stressed the importance of an excellent education at a great institution,” he said. “So off I went to Northwestern University, and it was a life-changing experience with intellectual challenges and exposure to parts of the world I never knew existed and exposure to ideas that to this day I find useful to my own professional experience.”

The portion of the gift creating the Schlager Family Internship Fund will enable students to connect with generations of Colby alumni and parents whose careers relate to national security and intelligence, through Jan Plan courses and summer internships in the nation’s capital arranged in partnership with DavisConnects.

The internship will provide students with firsthand experience and insight into the real-world implications of their scholarship as they consider how to structure their life after graduation. “We hope the fund ignites passion among students who might have never contemplated a career in national security,” Martha Schlager said.

Students will also have the opportunity to speak with current and former members of the Armed Services. Recently, Colby has graduated several students now serving as officers and pilots in the U.S. Marine Corps. Like Ethan Schlager, these students signed up in their first year at Colby for the Platoon Leader Course. Upon graduating from Colby and successfully completing PLC, the students were commissioned as officers in the Marine Corps.

Ethan Schlager was commissioned at commencement in 2020 by Mike Wisecup, a former Navy SEAL and Colby’s vice president and Harold Alfond Director of Athletics. “Mike’s continued mentorship of Ethan is a testament to the vision of the College. He makes a difference not just in the wins-and-losses column, but Mike is making a difference in the character of the students,” Ivan Schlager said. In addition, Adam Howard, the Charles A. Dana Professor of Education and the faculty advisor to the men’s basketball team, encouraged Ethan Schlager to challenge himself in the classroom, which prepared him to be a critical thinker.

Beyond having a direct impact on the lives of individual students, the Schlagers hope their gift inspires all Colby students to recognize the value and reward of service to the country.

“The foundation you get at a strong liberal arts college like Colby creates an environment that fosters leaders who are critical thinkers, who can write clearly, and who can express themselves,” Ivan Schlager said “There are so many opportunities for young, bright students at a liberal arts college to really give back to the country in a way that serves both institution and country.”