New scholarship fund will allow students to expand their horizons
Friday, May 12, 2023
Leona and George Zaharis in Nepal.
Leona and George Zaharis in Nepal.

By the time Cathy Zaharis (BBA82) was 11 years old, she had been to all 48 states of the lower contiguous United States.

“My parents both loved traveling and loved everyone everywhere we went,” she said.

Zaharis became a professor of practice at Tippie after a successful career in the private sector. Her return to the university, and her general curiosity for the world, is in part a product of her upbringing.

Her father, George, received acupuncture in China and both her parents visited Mother Teresa’s clinic in India, to name a few of their adventures. After her father’s passing in the early 1990s, Zaharis took her mother to Paris.

These experiences, along with countless others throughout her lifetime, instilled a passion for travel and a curiosity in Zaharis’ mother, Leona.

"I hope this scholarship fund lets students who wouldn’t have had this chance be able to travel and understand that life is bigger than their space." -Cathy Zaharis

“My mother was a woman of the world; an Iowan, yes, but a woman of the world,” Zaharis said. “She never got to go to college and after high school, was offered a job as a teller at a local bank. My grandfather wanted my mom to take the job, but my grandmother told my mom to go see the world and explore it. When I think about the outcome of my mother’s life, she loved the state of Iowa and wanted to live here, but she chose to explore too. She traveled to six of the seven continents in her lifetime!”

Leona Zaharis in Southeast Asia.
Leona Zaharis in Southeast Asia.

The passion for exploring led Zaharis to start a scholarship fund in her mother’s honor, who passed away last year. The Leona Zaharis Scholarship Fund has been established to support students who want to study abroad.

“I hope this scholarship fund lets students who wouldn’t have had this chance be able to travel and understand that life is bigger than their space. Establishing this scholarship, it seemed like a great way to honor my mother; for someone else to have the opportunity to experience the world like she was able to,” Zaharis said.

International experiences can help students enhance their degree, stand out to employers, and transform them into global citizens. Studying abroad is a high-impact educational opportunity for students at the university and fulfills the RISE (research/internship/study abroad/experiential class) requirement for every Tippie student.

“I think anytime we can get our students to experience other cultures, they’ll make better decisions for the future, for themselves, and for others,” Zaharis said. “I believe that broadening your horizons and seeing beyond your space is probably one of the best things you can do—ever. Going abroad, it’s like a masterclass.”

“I hope whoever gets her scholarship has joy in their heart as they see the world. That would be the best legacy for my mother.”


Meet the 2023 recipients.


If you’re interested in setting up a fund to honor someone in your life, contact Anthony Lehnertz at, 319-437-3359.


This article appeared in the 2023 issue of Exchange magazine and on the UI International Programs webpage.