Vital Signs » Summer 2018
Over her 30-year career at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, retired admissions officer Debbie McNeely became impressed with the support provided to medical students.
“I was with the admissions office for 20 years,” McNeely said. “Before that, I was at Fred White in the medical records department, back when we had the physicians in White Hall.”
The support she saw over the years led her to establish the Wonka Scholarship fund to support a unique orientation week tradition.
Known as the “golden ticket,” the program welcomes incoming students to their medical education journey at Wright State. Its beginning goes back to welcome talks given to prospective students on interview day.
“Dr. (Gregory) Toussaint was assistant dean of admissions. He’s since moved to another position, but one of his spiels was accepting the golden ticket from Wright State when he would talk to applicants who visited the school,” McNeely said. “So I took that, and thought, ‘Hmm, I can get candy bars with golden tickets.’”
She ordered a few candy bars from a company. To get the ball rolling back in 2015, McNeely wrapped the candy bars and typed out the cards herself. All of the incoming medical students were given one on the first day of orientation.
There were five candy bars with golden cards. McNeely added text to each one, congratulating the lucky winner with a $100 scholarship. It was a nice way to welcome the students to medical school, McNeely says.
It’s part of a fairly unconventional welcome wagon that the Boonshoft School of Medicine rolls out each year. Dr. Toussaint has been known for making an extravagant entrance while greeting new students in White Hall. McNeely says he had tried to find a Willy Wonka costume to go along with the “golden ticket” theme. When that fell through, he opted for an old, white bunny suit, playing off the traditional white coat.
“Oh, the students are excited. They think it’s funny. They know it was a play on Dr. Tous’ spiel. It tied it all in when he talked to them about coming to Wright State and accepting our golden ticket,” McNeely said. “Everybody that comes gets one, but only five get the money.” Prize winners typically come down to the front and pose for a picture with their golden ticket.
The golden ticket began in 2015 with those five cards. McNeely approached the Boonshoft School of Medicine’s development office to discuss sustaining the program into the future. She created the Wonka Golden Ticket Scholarship fund in December 2016 and supports the program herself through an annual gift.
With her support, the award amounts have increased. The five golden tickets are given in amounts of $500, $400, $300, $200 and $100.
“My inspiration behind that was that I enjoyed my job and I liked working with the students. I knew I wanted to retire and I knew I wanted to give back,” McNeely said. “I have always been in awe of the support that Boonshoft School of Medicine gives our students.”
— Daniel Kelly