Sisitsky Family Is All In to Support First-Generation Students

A Three-Generation Dartmouth Family Committed to Paying it Forward

Sisitsky Family Portrait

The Sisitsky family—Donna and Mark ’67 P’93,’97; Holly and Todd ’93 P’25; and Aviva and Peter ’97—has a generations’-long commitment to supporting Dartmouth students through annual giving focused on financial aid. So when the family decided to establish an endowed scholarship fund in 2007, they knew they wanted to support students from high-need backgrounds and first-generation students to honor Mark Sisitsky’s parents. “My grandparents made a lot of sacrifices so my dad, a first-generation student, could go to an Ivy League school,” says Todd Sisitsky.

“A place like Dartmouth can transform people’s lives, especially those who are first-generation. Our family is proof of that.”

What the Sisitsky family didn’t expect was to connect deeply with the students supported by their scholarship fund, including Juan Quinonez Zepeda ’22, a former Sisitsky scholar and now an associate with a national nonprofit working to help small-scale farmers.

Receiving a Sisitsky scholarship was a pivotal moment in Juan’s life. “As a first-generation student, I really felt that I was seen and appreciated, that there was a family out there who wanted to be a part of my journey,” he says. “I was so grateful to receive the Sisitsky scholarship because it allowed me to pursue so many things I was passionate about.”

One of those passions is the intersection of agriculture and social justice. Juan spent his high school summers working alongside his father and many migrant farm workers on a cattle ranch in Mississippi.

During his first semester at Dartmouth, Juan took a geography class focused on the agriculture industry and the power structures that uphold it. The course barely mentioned immigrant laborers and their contributions to society. In response, Juan wrote a paper on the knowledge and skills that migrant workers bring to the beef cattle industry, then turned the paper into a senior honors thesis. He is now working on publishing the first chapter of his thesis in an academic journal.

Juan credits the Sisitskys’ support as essential to his success at Dartmouth: “The Sisitsky scholarship opened up a whole new pathway to learn more about social activism and farming and broadened my view of what was possible,” he says.

Juan Quinonez Zepeda ’22 and his family at his Dartmouth graduation in 2022.
Juan Quinonez Zepeda ’22 and his family at his Dartmouth graduation in 2022.

Long-Lasting Impact

The impact of the Sisitsky family’s giving has extended far beyond financial support, says Juan.

“I met the Sisitskys at a Dartmouth Scholar Luncheon, and they were the most humble, caring, and passionate people. Spending time with them has challenged me to think more deeply about what it means to be a donor at Dartmouth,” he says. “I’ve learned that one of the best ways to invest is in students at Dartmouth because you are investing in a better future.

“The impact of the Sisitsky scholarship inspires me to create my own scholarship one day for Dartmouth students,” says Juan. “I’m very committed to doing that.”

For Peter, meeting some of the scholars has been especially meaningful:

“It’s an exciting way to stay connected to the school and to form friendships across the generations. These are people who will undoubtedly make an incredible impact on the world.”

The Sisitsky Family Scholarship Fund has supported five scholars to date, and the family is committed to supporting more.  

“Dartmouth significantly changed my life, and the lives of my sons, and I always wanted to pay it forward,” says Mark. “I am so grateful that we are in a position to make that possible.”

Mark’s wife Donna is all in: “It is so meaningful for us to know we’re doing something to help change the trajectory of these students’ lives.”

Financial aid continues to be a top priority of The Call to Lead campaign. Members of the Dartmouth community have committed $498 million in endowed financial aid funds toward an overarching campaign goal of $500 million.  

For more information about supporting Dartmouth students through endowed scholarship funds, please contact Cornelia Purcell at

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