$1M Gift for Endowed Scholarship Supports Learners Pursuing Physician Assistant Degree

By News, October 20, 2021

A $1 million gift from longtime Ithaca College philanthropists Manley H. and Doriseve “Dodie” Thaler will endow a scholarship to facilitate access to the college’s graduate physician assistant studies program. The Manley and Doriseve Thaler Physician Assistant Program Endowed Recruitment Scholarship provides support for the duration of the program to learners who demonstrate financial need and remain in good standing.

“This incredible gift from Manley and Doriseve Thaler will allow learners to gain critical skills and expertise with a lessened financial burden,” shares Susan Salahshor, assistant professor and director of the physician assistant program. “Our community is deeply grateful to the Thaler family for their commitment to supporting this innovative new program.”

Launched in the fall of 2021, the 27-month program leads to a Master of Science degree in Physician Assistant Studies and is designed to train learners to provide a comprehensive range of responsibilities in this fast-growing field (with a 31% expected growth in jobs between 2018-2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). Ithaca College’s program, which emphasizes mental and behavioral health training for rural settings, has been granted Accreditation-Provisional status from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). 

Learners will have the opportunity to collaborate with expert faculty, participate in team-based learning with peers, and utilize a state-of-the-art facility on the Ithaca Commons that includes smart classrooms and space for simulated clinical experiences. Learners also utilize a human anatomy lab and movement analysis lab located on the South Hill campus.

The 30 learners comprising the program’s first cohort (class of 2023) hail from 14 states and hold undergraduate degrees from institutions as near as Ithaca College and Colgate University and as far as the University of Colorado and Arizona State University. Nearly half of the class received no financial contribution from their families and had to borrow loans to cover tuition, housing, food, and other needs, further illuminating the crucial importance of the PA program endowed recruitment scholarship.

This gift from Manley and Dodie is but one of the Thaler family’s many contributions to Ithaca and Ithaca College that span generations. Manley’s father, Louis Thaler, was founder and senior partner of the Thaler & Thaler law firm, the City of Ithaca attorney from 1940 to 1941, and president of the Tompkins County Bar Association from 1944 to 1945. An amateur violinist, Louis Thaler married Rachel Shulman, a native Ithacan who was awarded a scholarship to study piano at what was then the Ithaca Conservatory of Music.

The legacy of the Thalers’ love of music lives on today thanks to Manley, president and director of The Thaler Howell Foundation, Inc. To date, the foundation has endowed three Ithaca College concert series, ensuring that outstanding artists will always perform for the Ithaca College community and the residents of the surrounding area.

Ithaca College will celebrate the opening of its state-of-the-art physician assistant program facility at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday, October 21, from 4:30-5:30 p.m. at 215 East State Street in downtown Ithaca.  Celebratory remarks will be offered by Svante Myrick, mayor of the City of Ithaca; La Jerne Terry Cornish, interim president of Ithaca College; Shirley M. Collado, former president of Ithaca College; Linda Petrosino, dean of the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance; Susan Salahshor, director of the physician assistant program. Following this short program, guests will have the opportunity to tour our innovative new space with current learners.