Fund helps students in emergency

headshot image of Maurice Graff.Maurice O. Graff
headshot image of Maurice Graff.

Maurice O. Graff

A special fund has helped numerous UW-L students in emergency situations keep on track to earn their degrees.

The angel fund, which honors a former university professor and administrator Maurice O. Graff, was established through the UW-L Foundation in 2008. The fund, established by anonymous donors, aims to help students when it really counts.

Whether providing financial support to fix a broken car, pay the rent or transport a student’s child to daycare, the fund has made a huge difference for students, says Angie Lee, a UW-L staff member who helps match the financial help with student needs.

“Some students feel bad taking a handout, but when you tell them that this fund was created for the specific situation they are going through, you can just see the relief wash over them,” says Lee. “They say ‘this is going to be the difference between me having to drop out right now or go on.’”

Unlike scholarships and financial aid, the funds don’t come at a specific time of the year, they come when the emergency does. One student recipient writes:

“Continuing my education has been of great importance to me, but it has been
made a challenge due to the financial restrictions brought on by health and economic strain. Your generous gift has helped to ease the burden of that, as well as touched me through your kindness.”

The fund continues a legacy left by Graff, a long-time faculty member and administrator, who played such a vital role in UW-L’s evolution that the university’s founding building was named after him. Graff was a philanthropist who established the first Distinguished Alumni Award — the Graff Distinguished Alumnus Award, which was the only alumni award for many years. He was an advocate for students and was genuinely concerned about their well being, according to the donors.

“I think he saw those students who maybe didn’t have a super strong support system, and were trying to do things the best they could on their own,” says one of the donors. “He tried to encourage and show them ways they could accomplish their goals.”

Students who receive money from the fund are given a letter from their anonymous donors, which asks that they pay it forward when they are able.

The original donors to the fund hope to grow it, and encourage others to donate to it. Suggestions of students who need help come from around campus are funneled through Lee. The UW-L Foundation helps decide the amount.

Want to help?

UW-L faculty and staff who have recommendations of students who find themselves in what they view as insurmountable situations, should contact Angie Lee at or 608.785.8066. Anyone interested in contributing to the fund can contact Sara Olson, UW-L Foundation, at or 608.785.8491.