When Peddie’s first Armellino Scholars, Regan Cook ’19 and Daniel Funderbirk ’19, crossed the stage to accept their diplomas last May, it was an exclamation point at the end of a profound four- year journey.
“I really believe that those four high school years are the most formative in a kid’s life,” said Michael Armellino ’57 GP’19. He established the Armellino Scholarship in 2014 as a way to “increase access to Peddie for all kinds of kids who are qualified,” and Cook and Funderbirk were the first recipients. The merit-based scholarship covers tuition and boarding costs, as well as a stipend for an approved summer experience.
“Peddie was a dream place for me to be,” said Cook, a George Washington University political science student and competitive rower. At Peddie, Cook discovered her passion for history and spent several weeks at the Southern Oral History Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as part of her summer signature experience. Last winter Cook received the “Most Valuable Rower” award for Girls’ Crew.
“There’s pretty much nothing I am doing now, or have done in the last four years, or probably will do for the rest of my life that I could be doing without Peddie and Mr. Armellino,” she said.
Funderbirk, who attends Berklee College of Music and plans to double major in performance and business, asserted how much he grew during “those pivotal years becoming a young adult” at Peddie. The avid performer was in numerous concerts and productions at Peddie, both as an actor and in the pit band. He portrayed Gaston in the freshman musical, “Beauty and the Beast” and last year played trumpet in Peddie’s first professionally produced music video, “You Will Be Found.”
“You have to hold yourself to a greater standard,” said Funderbirk of being an Armellino Scholar. “It helped me to work harder.”
“Four years ago, when I first met Dan and Regan, they were a little bit shy,” recalled Armellino. “But every year they became more and more comfortable. When they graduated, to me, it was like having my own grandkids graduate.”
Head of School Peter A. Quinn P’15 ’18 ’21 spoke of Armellino, Cook and Funderbirk with pride and gratitude. “Armellino’s generosity has now attracted and supported ten exceptional students, the first two of whom have graduated,” he said. “Daniel and Regan were the pioneers. They opened their hearts and minds to learn and to give as much as they could along the way. ”
Along with the gift of an exceptional Peddie education, both scholars appreciate the role models the program afforded them. Funderbirk calls Armellino “someone I could call and talk to about anything.
It’s like talking to a grandfather,” while Cook credits calculus teacher, the late Kate Nicholson, as a wise mother figure in challenging times.
The students are excited about their next chapter. “Peddie is home to me, but I’m ready to make myself uncomfortable again,” said Cook.