Temple Times Online Edition
    NOVEMBER 10, 2005
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Two Temple students awarded prestigious Cooke scholarships

Prema Kesselman found her musical voice at Temple and has gone on to find bigger success at one of the world’s leading musical institutions.

Meanwhile, Abraham Cisne has come to Temple to further his own academic success.

Kesselman and Cisne have both been given the opportunity to achieve their dreams by becoming recipients of the highly competitive Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship, which awards up to $40,000 each year.

“The great thing about [Kesselman and Cisne] is that it means Temple attracts outstanding students — and with their Temple education in hand, they can compete with the best of the best in national competitions,” said Ruth Ost, director of the Honors Program.


Kesselman, a recent Temple graduate, has been awarded a Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Scholarship. Kesselman was one of 76 scholars chosen out of 1,300 candidates to receive the award.

Kesselman came to Temple to study music. But the path to her degree also gave her opportunities to concentrate on flute performance, including a chance to perform at Carnegie Hall this summer, and even to realize the importance of bringing her passion for the arts to others.

Now, Kesselman is studying for her master’s degree in flute performance an ocean away at the Trinity College of Music in London.

“I was astounded and shocked when I found out I had won the scholarship,” Kesselman said.

“I really thought it was a long shot. Without the scholarship it would not have been possible for me to go to Trinity College of Music. It is quite expensive to study in London.”

Kesselman’s scholarship covers costs for tuition, housing, books and a portion of her living expenses, totaling nearly $40,000 a year.

“[Temple] really gave me the freedom to express myself fully,” Kesselman said. “I grew up in California and specifically chose to come to Temple to study flute with David Cramer [the associate principal flute of the Philadelphia Orchestra]. Working with him was the highlight of my studies. I am fortunate that all of my professors at Temple truly believed in me.”

Although Kesselman credits Temple for opening the doors to her music career, her talent for the arts was noticed at a young age. She began playing piano at age 6 and taught flute to other students at 14. By the time she came to Temple she had traveled to Australia with the Pasadena Youth Symphony and performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a side-by-side concert.

Scholarship recipients “show not only exceptional academic ability, but also a strong will to succeed and other qualities including demonstrated critical thinking, a love of music or art, a sense of service, a love of the arts or humanities. Each of these attributes was important to Mr. Cooke,” says Pete Mackey, director of public affairs of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.


Abraham Cisne, a transfer student from Community College of Philadelphia, was among 30 students nationwide selected to receive the foundation’s undergraduate transfer scholarship, which provides financial support to students who want to continue their education at four-year institutions.

Out of all the universities in the country, Cisne, of Wynnewood, Pa., chose to come to Temple to major in Latin American studies.

“Temple is perfect for me because they offer an exchange program in Puerto Rico and a study-abroad program in Brazil that I’m really interested in,” Cisne said. “Traveling abroad was not a luxury I had until I received [the Cooke Scholarship].”

Cisne, 22, achieved perfect academic standing at CCP while serving as a volunteer tutor to fellow students and inner-city youth who were struggling in school. He earned election to the CCP Phi Theta Kappa honor society, was cited by the college for Distinguished Achievement in International Studies, and held two jobs that together averaged 30 hours a week.

Such accomplishments were a remarkable turnaround after his decision to drop out of high school. But Cisne, a GED recipient of less than three years, is determined to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy after his four years at Temple.

“I really want to do something that will make my family and friends proud of me,” Cisne said.

Scholarship recipients not only are academic achievers — both Kesselman and Cisne earned perfect 4.0 grade-point averages — Mackey said, but they also demonstrate “what Mr. Cooke called the will to succeed, to overcome obstacles in life. And these two [Kesselman and Cisne] definitely have that.”

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is a private, independent foundation established in 2000 through the will of Jack Kent Cooke. Cooke, who built a media empire and also owned the Chrysler Building, the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Washington Redskins, died in April 1997.

“[Kesselman and Cisne] are not only outstanding students academically but are also making the world a much better and more compassionate place,” Ost said. “These are not people that want to be successful for the sake of their own ego. They truly want to help others.”

- By Karen Shuey