The development of caterpillar to butterfly is a transformative experience, much like that of the Mudd years.
In 1993, Anna (Hartzog) Prestezog and Robert (Prestegard) Prestezog were among the predominantly first-year group that inhabited East Dorm. The two formed a friendship with each other and their dormmates, pulling pranks, managing tough classes, sharing science stories and physics jokes at 3 a.m. and generally having a great time.
“We were thrilled that there were all these geeks who were excited about the same things we were—about classes and movies and music and meeting each other,” said Anna ’97/98, an engineering graduate, who is now a medical device engineer consulting for VNUS Medical Technologies in San Jose. Robert ’97, a mathematics major, works in applied mathematics, data analysis and modeling at Friend Finder Networks in Sunnyvale. The couple married in 1999, joining their names to create Prestezog.
The couple wants to see more “pre-scientists” with potential enjoy the Mudd experience as much as they did. This is one reason they support the President’s Scholars Program (PSP), a comprehensive scholarship and professional development program that identifies and encourages outstanding young men and women who have the potential to be future leaders in the engineering, science, mathematics and technology fields. The PSP is sponsored by HMC in conjunction with industry-leading corporations, private foundations and alumni.
“I think a very important part of the Mudd experience is being surrounded by amazing people,” said Anna. “That goes for the faculty, but especially for the students. And, in order for Mudd to continue to provide this experience for students, we need to attract the best ones we can. I think the PSP makes us competitive in attracting the best.”
When meeting potential President’s Scholars at a recent HMC event, the couple were even more sold on the program. They were impressed by the range of experience within the group, from students already involved in university research to a USA math olympiad team member.
“It was very clear that these people were already Mudders,” said Anna. “All that was left was for them to say ‘yes.’”
The couple’s support helps insure that when these students say “yes,” there are funds to support them.
“I’d like the program to be successful because it clearly brings highly qualified students to Mudd,” said Robert. “I hope that it will continue to be a success. Longer term, it would be great to see a larger part of Mudd’s student body supported by this sort of merit-based scholarship.”
Anna relied on scholarships and financial aid to get her through her Mudd years and is happy to help others now. “Any chance that I get to help other people get through that, I say, ‘yes,’” she said.
The couple are reminded of the best part of their Mudd years daily because they have re-created the dorm atmosphere they so enjoyed in a five-bedroom home they call the Alpine Butterfly Lodge. The couple purchased it in 2000 with two other Mudders, Patri Forwalter-Friedman ’98 and Dawn Strahler ’98, also Bay-area residents. The couple said the home allows them to continue to reap the benefits of living within a close-knit community: close friends, late night conversations, and the convenience of a bed just down the hall. Over the last eight years, it’s been home to a rotating cast of Mudders and non-Mudders—”but never more than 10 at a time,” said Anna.
Robert said the strong sense of community at Mudd has been a big influence on what’s important to him and how he has lived his life since his undergrad years. “Of all of the things that Mudd has taught me, the value of living together has had the most profound impact,” he said.
Transformed by their Mudd years, Anna and Robert Prestezog are helping insure that a wide range of students enjoy that same positive experience.
– This story originally appeared in HMC's 2008 Annual Report