Meet Our 2023 Alumni Scholarship Recipients

This year’s Alumni Association Scholarship was awarded to two well-deserved students: Abigail “Abby” Lewis ’24 and Lily Hebda ’25. Abby is a neuroscience major with a minor in psychology and Lily is majoring in English and secondary education.

Learn more about the alumni and their families, their inspiration and more about who they are individually in the Q&A below!

Abby Lewis smiling next to her mother
Abby Lewis (left) and her mother, Margaret Lewis ’01 (right).

Abby Lewis ’24

What are your major(s), expected graduation year and clubs/involvement on campus?

I am majoring in neuroscience and minoring in psychology. Graduating in the Spring of 2024, I am currently involved in the Honors Program, Tri Beta (biology honor society), and I am a Wilkes Adventure Education enthusiast. I am an honors peer mentor and e-mentor, while also being the treasurer for the neuroscience club. Previously, I had been an intern at the NeuroTraining Research center, I was the vice president for the junior class for the 2022-23 year and I have had two years of experience running on the Wilkes women’s cross country team.

What is your favorite thing about Wilkes?

My favorite thing about Wilkes is the ability to build connections with professors who know you on a more personal level. Because of the smaller class sizes, they know who you are, and they are willing to help you and work with you as much as they can.

What has been your most rewarding opportunity here at Wilkes?

The most rewarding opportunity here at Wilkes would be the Guthrie Scholars Program. The amount of experience I will gain there is unheard of. This program at Guthrie’s main campus in Sayre is where seniors can spend an entire semester shadowing medical professionals from all different fields in a large clinical setting.

What are your plans for the future?

My plan for after graduation is to take a gap year to work on gaining the clinical experience needed to apply to physician assistant (PA) school. Currently, I am leaning towards anything neuroscience related, family medicine or emergency medicine. After that, I hope to return closer to home and to practice in a rural setting.

Do you have a role model? If so, who is it?

My biggest role model is my high school physics teacher. He is someone I look up to because of his selfless nature and true desire to help others. For example, he would offer help to any of his students at any time and was even willing to set up Zoom sessions for me when I was confused in Physics 171 and 174 in college. He also dedicated his time to help as the jumper coach in track, and would volunteer to play percussion for our high school drama club’s annual musical. His investment into the lives of others is something that I admire and look up to. I hope to one day be able to have this kind of impact on others as he did for me.

How does receiving the alumni scholarship help you and your family?

The alumni scholarship will greatly benefit me and my family because it helps relieve some of the financial burden of getting an education. Any university is expensive, and graduate school is even more so. This scholarship will help keep costs down before I even get there. This scholarship will allow me to continue on in my education journey with a little less stress for the future.

What is the best advice you would give to underclassmen?

Get involved. I held back my first two years because I thought joining clubs would be too overwhelming with normal classwork. Then, junior year I decided to step out and join some things and it was the best decision I could have made. I had encountered new people, made new friends and had amazing experiences. What I have learned is that it is better to try something new and find out that it is not your thing than to never know at all.

What do you do for fun?

In my free time, I like hanging out with my friends, spending time with my family, being outside, running and watching the sunset while eating ice cream.

Lily Hebda with her grandmother
Lily Hebda (left) and her grandmother “Nanny”, Cecilia Rudolph Williams ’73 (right).

Lily Hebda ’25

What are your major(s), expected graduation year and clubs/involvement on campus?

I am an English/secondary education double major expecting to graduate in spring 2025. I’m involved with The Inkwell Quarterly, the English department’s literary magazine, and I work in the Writing Center.

Who is your Wilkes legacy family member(s)?

My family is truly a Wilkes family. My grandmother, Cecilia Rudolph Williams, graduated with degrees in English and secondary education, the same degrees I’m pursuing, in 1973. Two of my aunts, Carrie Williams Timko ’96 and Sarah Williams Leng ’05, graduated from Wilkes with degrees in biology and sociology, respectively. I also have two uncles who received degrees in English and pharmacology from the University.

What has been your most rewarding opportunity here at Wilkes?

Joining the English department has been extremely rewarding for me because it has made me aware of so many additional academic and co-curricular activities. The department has encouraged me to become involved in the Inkwell, Manuscript Society, and Writing Center, all of which have enriched and improved my college experience. There is always something going on, whether it be a poetry reading, department celebration or even visiting authors.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m most excited to get into the classroom and begin developing meaningful lessons for my students. I know not every student will feel as passionately about reading as I do, but I want to ensure my students have the literacy skills necessary to be successful in all career fields. I’m excited to pursue graduate studies eventually, though I admittedly haven’t put much thought into them just yet.

How does receiving the alumni scholarship help you and your family?

Simply put, the scholarship is going to be a major financial help for me this upcoming semester. I’ve been prioritizing studies above working lately, and this scholarship will help offset the costs of attendance. I rely heavily on scholarships and financial aid, so this is a gift I am really appreciative of.

What is the best advice you would give to underclassmen?

Prioritize sleep and develop a studying routine! Getting into these habits as early as possible is key to academic success. Also, lots of people will try to really stress the social aspect of college, but that is not what you should prioritize. Remember that you are in school to learn — everything else is just the cherry on top. There will be times when you need to sacrifice clubs and social gatherings for the sake of getting much needed sleep or study time. It’s worth it.