Confidence Builder

9 December 2019

Rolf Peters ’86 honors an influential professor.

A man poses with a dog under his arm
Rolf Peters ’86

Rolf Peters ’86 still remembers how he felt at the beginning of his first year. “I came to Carleton with the same ailment President Steve Poskanzer told me he suffered from when he first started college. It’s called the Fraud Syndrome,” Peters recalls. “You’re walking down the hallway and you’re thinking, ‘There’s been a big mistake. There’s no way that I should be here.’”

Peters found a cure during his first term, while he was taking a seminar from modern European history professor Diethelm Prowe, who taught at Carleton from 1966 to 2008. “He had a great way in the classroom. He encouraged you to speak, but you had to be brief, you had to be right, and it had to be relevant,” recalls Peters. “So, when he wrote a comment on my final exam that said, ‘You’re obviously going to do well here,’ it made all the difference in the world.”

Peters had no plan to give a six-figure gift to his alma mater. But then he met with Dan Rustad, associate vice president for development, and found out that one of the central tenets of the president’s strategic plan was to increase financial aid opportunities for low- and middle-income students. At the time, he was also aware that Prowe was dying of cancer, so when Rustad mentioned that some scholarships are named after former professors, “a light went on.”

“I thought, ‘Hey, I could do a financial aid endowment scholarship and name it after Diet.’ And then I got to visit him right before he passed away [March 7, 2015], when Dan presented him with a certificate,” Peters says. “Dan took a picture of us with his phone and I have it in my office right now.”

Created in 2014 by Rolf and his wife, Sarah Peters, the Professor Diethelm Prowe Endowed Scholarship Fund supports students such as Laura Savage ’21, who received money generated by the endowment at the beginning of her junior year. “It’s been very important to my journey, especially as a low-income student” she says. “It gives me a peace of mind that allows me to redirect my attention from finances to my studies.”

“Diethelm Prowe made all the difference in the world.”

—Rolf Peters ’86