2019 Fred E. Freeman Scholarship winners share education plans



Fred E. Freeman, a longtime champion of University staff, retired from his position as associate director of personnel in 1987 after 47 years of service. Following his death, he left money to the University that, in 1994, was used to establish the Fred E. Freeman Staff Scholarship, which supports the educational pursuits of selected staff members.

The scholarship provides tuition reimbursement for postsecondary education, certification or a college degree. A limited number of staff are selected each year based upon eligibility, the relevance of the course to the applicants’ current or future employment at the University, and the availability of funds, among other things. The scholarship also covers necessary educational expenses such as tuition, books and fees. The maximum award per semester per student is $2,000.

Regular, full-time, non-exempt staff with a minimum of one year of full-time service with the University (as of the first day of classes) are eligible for the scholarship. Eligibility is contingent upon continued full-time employment at the University.

The 2019 recipients are Linh Tran of Building Services and Ria Kapluck of the Alumni Association.

Linh Tran pursues the next step in his career

Linh Tran Web

Born and raised in Vietnam, Tran came to the U.S. seeking political asylum. His sponsor family lived in South Bend, and he moved here to be with them. He was working as a machinist during the economic downturn in 2008 when he was laid off. In 2009, he started working at the University as an on-call employee and became a full-time employee in 2010. He worked in a few different positions in Campus Dining before moving to Building Services as a custodian.

Tran started college in 2015, due to the encouragement of one of his managers. He graduated from the Ivy Tech program offered through the University, and received an associate degree in business administration. Tran is now pursuing his bachelor’s degree in business management through Bethel University. He has a little over a year left to finish the degree. When he does, he hopes to take the next step in his career as a manager.

“I want to be a role model to my kids and my grandkids. It’s been hard to go back to school because I have family-, job- and school-related responsibilities,” Tran says. “I’ve learned many things about business I never knew before. Going to college has given me the opportunity to improve my knowledge and skills for my job and has helped me be a better person. Even though it’s a challenge, I’ve been making it through. I’ve made a commitment and it’s an engine to drive my passion to do it.”

Ria Kapluck will finish her degree in the spring

Ria Kapluck Web

Kapluck works in the Alumni Association as the myNotreDame support coordinator. She assists the volunteer network and administrators. She’s been at the University for almost five years and has worked in higher education for 15 years, having previously worked at the University of Montana Western.

Knowing that Kapluck had started college studies many years ago, her manager encouraged her to apply for the Fred E. Freeman Scholarship to complete her bachelor’s degree. She applied, received the scholarship and is now three classes away from finishing her psychology degree from Indiana University, which she started to pursue in 1991. Kapluck will finish up in the spring, and plans to work on an advanced degree after that.

“It’s very exciting, and I am so thankful to have this opportunity,” she says. “In my job, I hear the stories of Notre Dame students who benefit from the University’s scholarships, many of which are funded through alumni. Even though I’m not a student here, I feel like I’m benefiting from that same spirit of Notre Dame generosity, which in this case came from a former staff member.”

Her advice to qualifying employees: “If you’re thinking about pursuing further education, this is such a great way to do that.”

For more information on the Fred E. Freeman Scholarship, visit go.nd.edu/freeman. For a full list of education benefits offered to qualifying full-time employees, visit go.nd.edu/educationbenefits.