A scholarship is an investment in the promise of a student whose intelligence and vision will yield returns many times over. For 50 years, the Mensa Foundation has nurtured that promise in thousands of students.
“This is a special program that does more than award money to students,” points out Carol Thompson, a volunteer scholarship judge. “It shows the world how the winners of these scholarships are using their abilities and intelligence to help others develop and grow.
“And isn’t that what we’re put here on this earth to do, to help and care for others?” Thompson asks.
A Mensa Foundation scholarship is unique in at least one other way — what you do to earn it.
That special vision dates to 1973 and to Dr. Abbie Salny, American Mensa’s longtime Supervisory Psychologist and a trailblazer who would eventually become the only two-time winner of Mensa’s prestigious Margot Award. Besides the Scholarship Program, in 26 years as a Mensa Foundation Trustee, Dr. Salny helped create the Awards for Excellence in Research and the Distinguished Teacher Award.
Dr. Salny’s signature innovation for the Scholarship Program is its sole requirement: Applicants provide a brief essay on the topic of their career goals and what they had already done to achieve those goals. “It demanded that students actually have DONE something — instead of wanting to do something,” Dr. Salny wrote in a 1999 letter about the application process. “That’s the whole point of the Mensa Foundation Scholarship. It goes to only people who have made a commitment and can prove it.”
“Thank you to you and your team at the Mensa Foundation for investing in me as I pursue my educational goals to leave a lasting impact on my community.”
By 2014, the Foundation had funded $1 million in scholarships. Each year, hundreds of volunteer judges from the United States and across the world review and judge essay submissions and then select upward of 200 scholarship winners. “Little did we know that what Dr. Salny created would stand the test of time and grow into what it is today,” says Mensa Foundation Director Jill Beckham.
The Foundation Board of Trustees is working to boost its development mission, allowing it to fund more scholarships and with increased award amounts.
Endowed scholarships, a key segment of the Scholarship Program, enable Mensa members and friends of the Foundation to leave a lasting legacy. These scholarships take Dr. Salny’s vision a step further by turning a gift into an annual award that will exist in perpetuity, unleashing intelligence every year into the future.
In 2013, E. “Bunny” Warsh, a retired nurse, funded the Charlotte Duggar Memorial Nursing Scholarship in memory of her mother. Applicants must possess a nursing license, a critical element for Bunny because it ensured the now-annual award would target nursing students. Bunny saw her scholarship as an opportunity to address the specific needs of these future frontline workers by defraying the costs of their essential education.
“The Mensa Foundation Scholarship alleviated the financial burden of veterinary school, allowing me to pursue valuable opportunities and focus on my studies.”
As Bunny did, those who seek to endow a scholarship will appreciate the ability to establish custom rules around their scholarship application and disbursement, ensuring their gift’s impact matches their intent.
Groups, too, have found scholarship endowment to be a gift unto itself. In 2019, Mensa’s Gen Y SIG (the Generation Y Special Interest Group) inaugurated the Gen Y SIG Scholarship as a way to give back to an organization that gave them so much, not least of which were their first feelings of self-acceptance and authenticity. The group achieved this largely by enrolling as the beneficiary of that year’s key fundraising events, including a sherry- and whiskey-tasting and the Mr* Mensa Pageant.
Time is as good as treasure for the Mensans and other volunteers who lend their eyes and expertise to the Scholarship Program by judging applicant essays. Hundreds of Mensans participate every year at the local, regional, and national levels evaluating the compositions in which students reveal their dreams and plans for their futures. The Mensa Foundation Scholarship Program continues to invest in those futures, nurturing the promise of thousands of students.
Endowing a named scholarship through the Mensa Foundation is one of the best ways to create a lasting impact on students’ educational journeys. It also is one of the best ways to build a legacy because of the nature of endowed scholarship funds, which are designed to exist in perpetuity. As a result, they provide a constant and consistent source of funding to be used for educational expenses.
Contact Philanthropy Director John Thompson at to learn more about how you can endow a Mensa Foundation scholarship and leave a lasting legacy of unleashing intelligence.