Drs. Brian '02 & Jessica Masser '01
Well-Intended Gifts a Response to a Well-Rounded College Experience
(Published Fall 2012) As the first person in her family to go to college, Jessica Masser ’01 wasn’t sure how many credits she should have each semester. She took as many as she could, and she ended up graduating in three and a half years. Luckily, her future husband, Brian Masser ’02, was part of that rigorous class schedule. After meeting their very first day at Frostburg, they found themselves in many of the same courses and labs after both chose to major in chemistry, a department that had awarded each of them scholarships. “We loved that it was a small department,” Jessica said. “Our professors were so nice, supportive, very friendly and excellent in terms of their knowledge and personality. They invited us to their houses, had us over for Thanksgiving. I didn’t know anyone else at other schools that got that kind of attention.”
To balance out her studies, Jessica started playing basketball and volleyball and running track for FSU. “If I had only done class, I probably would have cracked,” she said. “Playing with the girls, going on away trips and hanging out after practice … that was where I learned the most about the person I wanted to be.” “Once you are on a team, you have 14 to 15 new friends right away,” said Jody Pepple, who coached Jessica in basketball. “If you’re having a bad day, coming to practice or having a game can improve your mood. Being a member of a team can increase self-esteem and confidence. … I like to think that as coaches, we teach the fundamentals and strategies of the game but more important, we teach life skills.”
Jessica and Brian got together two years after they met their freshmen year and eventually married, starting a family and settling in Johnstown, Pa. She’s now a doctor, practicing family medicine in Johnstown, and he’s a pharmacist at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center. “When we were going through medical and pharmacy school, we keep thinking how nice it was that someone gave us money through our scholarships at FSU, because it really helped,” Jessica said.
The Massers initially planned to give back to their alma mater as part of their five-year reunion, “but five years go by and we were still in school,” Jessica said. “So we did the 10-year reunion!” It was important to the couple that their philanthropy celebrate their support of FSU students who are excelling academically. But they wanted to make sure that their giving resonated with Jessica’s positive experiences of balancing academics with a well-rounded array of activities outside the classroom. In the end, they realized setting up two different funds was the best way to go, and created the Lady Bobcat Basketball Endowment, which supports the Department of Athletics’ areas of greatest need in a way that helps advance women’s basketball. “This endowment is Jessica’s way of giving back to the sport she loves and also showing that basketball and academics together helped her build her goals and find success,” said Pepple, who continues as head basketball coach and is senior woman administrator for the Department of Athletics.
The Massers also established the Masser Family Chemistry and Healthcare Professional Scholarship, which is awarded to chemistry majors who intend to pursue graduate education leading to a career in medicine, pharmacy or other health care field. “We wanted it definitely to be something from the two of us, as a family. It’s from us and our kids and for everything that Frostburg gave to us,” Jessica said. “My husband and I talked about a GPA cut-off point for the chemistry scholarship. A 3.0 showed me that someone was dedicated to their studies but involved in more than just school. I wanted them to be well-rounded; we wanted someone who was there to get an education but also learn life.” Today, the Massers and their two children return to the ‘Burg twice a year so they can walk around campus and pay a visit to Frostburg’s Mario’s restaurant, their favorite place where they used to go for dates. “The kids have been there ever since they were teeny tiny,” Jessica said. “We keep joking with them that they have to go to Frostburg – we don’t care where else they want to go. They love it and just assume that’s the only place you go!"