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Scholarship Keeps New Zealand Family Together

A scholarship from Duquesne University is keeping a New Zealand family—including a college-bound daughter and her younger sister, who is awaiting a multiple organ transplant— intact in Pittsburgh.

Wayne and Jodee Reid moved their family more than 8,500 miles from Napier, N.Z., to Pittsburgh 2 ½ years ago. At birth, their younger daughter, Matisse, now 8, had been diagnosed with chronic intestinal pseudo food obstruction, and she has been on the waiting list for a multiple organ transplant, including stomach and intestines.

“We knew from the time Matisse was born that her chances would rely on the transplant, but back then, it was in its infancy,” said Jodee. “Very few centers worldwide do intestinal transplants. We wanted the best team to be transplanting her, and we truly believe we’ve come to this city for our other children as well.”

The other children are, Fraanz, 4; Kalani, 11; and Rachel, 17, who graduated from Pine-Richland High School in June. At graduation, she faced more than typical senior trepidation about college. Because of immigration laws, neither parent is able to work in the U.S. As a New Zealand citizen, Rachel is considered an international student in the U.S., and ineligible for student loans, but as a graduate of a U.S. school, New Zealand schools also consider her an international student.

“She was like a woman without a country; it was very unfortunate,” said Craig Tumas, a 2001 Duquesne business administration graduate who befriended the Reids through the Downtown Pittsburgh Rotary when they first landed in Pittsburgh.

Undaunted, Rachel had started her college search, hoping to be able to stay with her family.

“Rachel and I, about this time last year, did the tour at Duquesne, and she just fell in love with it,” Jodee said. “If she was going to stay here in the USA and study, she really wanted to go to Duquesne.”

Tumas helped other Rotarians to funnel donations to the Reids, allowing them to become established in Richland Township, with contributions ranging from a house and car to a toaster and linens. In June, Tumas shared the family’s plight with the Rev. Sean Hogan, C.S.Sp., executive vice president for student life at Duquesne. The Reids, Tumases and Hogan discussed the situation over dinner. Rachel had been accepted at Duquesne, but had no means to pay for schooling.

“I know Father has a soft spot in his heart for hard cases in life,” Tumas said. “The Reids can’t work while they’re here, so they have to depend on the generosity of Pittsburghers, and Father has that vein running through him.”

Ultimately, Rachel received a full tuition scholarship for the next four years. When the Reids heard the news, they were, literally, in tears, Tumas said.

“There is a need,” Hogan said simply. “She needs to finish her education. I felt that, from the Spiritan values (of caring for the underserved) we should try, and I got tremendous cooperation from the director of admissions.”

The family is quick to acknowledge its blessings.

“Rachel was very, very lucky, very fortunate. She realizes this is an incredible opportunity,” Jodee said, explaining that Rachel still needs to obtain a job on campus to cover the cost of her room, board and expenses while she studies for a communication and/or business major.

Once again, the Reids are undaunted.

“We look at everything positively,” Jodee said. “We’re not ones to focus on the negative.”

Rachel, who thought she had flown to Napier this summer to move away from her family and attend school, was overcoming the 18-hour time difference and jet lag from her return flight to Pittsburgh on Aug. 14. She will move into St. Ann’s Hall, along with other incoming freshmen, the week of Aug. 16—and realize her college dream.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.