SDSU Retirement Association transforms students’ lives

Raymond Wells' determination to earn a college degree and lift his family out of poverty led him to the life-changing support of the SDSU Retirement Association Scholarship.

Tuesday, July 9, 2024
Raymond Wells (Courtesy photo)
Raymond Wells (Courtesy photo)

From a young age, San Diego native Raymond Wells (‘22) knew he always wanted to earn his college degree and start a professional life. 

After seeing how the men in his family were never afforded the privilege of attending higher education, Wells vowed to work hard, graduate, and build a career to help bring his family out of poverty. 

In 2020, his dream came true when he was accepted into San Diego State University’s School of Social Work. However, with this turning point came the fear of the financial burden tuition costs would bring to his family.

As Wells looked for different scholarships to cover the expenses, he came across the SDSU Retirement Association Scholarship. 

The award, among eight offered by an organization of more than 400 retired faculty and staff established primarily to award scholarships, requires applicants to have a relative who worked or retired from SDSU. By virtue of an uncle who teaches in the School of Art and Design, Wells qualified, and he applied. Despite a high school GPA of 4.0,  Wells had no expectations of getting the scholarship.

An email one afternoon negated his pessimism. As a first-generation student, receiving a scholarship of this magnitude not only eased the financial burden but solidified that he was right where he belonged. 

“I feel like I am finally able to have a seat at the table and consider myself a professional,” Wells said. 

Because of the scholarship, Wells was able to focus less on school costs and more on investing in his own future. Through an internship with Scripps Hospital, Wells discovered his passion for serving and helping the adult community.

“Not only has the Retirement Association supported a student with their education, but they have subsequently made an investment into the San Diego community,” Wells said. 

After graduating with a bachelor's degree in social work in 2022, Wells launched his career working for the nonprofit Healthy Connect, where he primarily worked with individuals experiencing homelessness and mental illnesses. But he didn’t stop there. 

Wells pursued his master’s degree and entered a three-year program at SDSU. Soon after, Wells was lucky enough to receive another Retirement Association scholarship, leaving him completely debt-free. 

As a not one, not two, but three-time recipient of the scholarship, Wells’ appreciation for the donors and members of the SDSU Retirement Association goes beyond words. 

“My dreams are coming true, and I am thankful for the SDSU Retirement Association for supporting me for the third time and helping me complete my education,” Wells said. “I never thought I would make it this far.”

Dedication to Education

Nancy Farnan (‘83, ‘88), president of the association, said its donor members are inspired by success stories such as Wells.

“People are committed to giving,” Farnan said. “People are so happy to be a part of helping students' academic lives and also their personal lives.” 

The nonprofit was founded in 1986. While its central mission is to provide scholarships composed of members' donations, the association also sponsors travel and hosts events such as golf and bridge, game-watching, and webinars. The association helped fund the Symphonic Carillon in the Student Services Complex.

As a former faculty member in the College of Education, past chair of the School of Teacher Education, and previous associate dean, staying connected to SDSU after retiring is important to Farnan. 

“This association has been created to help people still feel connected to the university, not only for philanthropic reasons but to enrich their retirement lives,” Farnan said. 

Amy Walling, Associate Vice President, Planned Giving, Estate Administration and Annual Giving for SDSU, has had first-hand experience seeing the association come to life and its impact on everyone involved. The scholarship not only honors the legacy of those retired but ignites the potential of SDSU students. 

“The Retirement Association scholarship is a powerful symbol of our campus community's dedication to education,” Walling said. 

In 2023, the association awarded scholarships worth $4,000 each to eight SDSU students and hopes to award even more in the future. 

To learn more about the SDSU Retirement Association, their scholarships, and how to become a member, visit or email [email protected].  To contribute to the scholarship visit

SDSU students qualify for the Retirement Association Scholarship if they have a relative who is currently employed at SDSU or a relative who has retired from SDSU.

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