Building bright futures: Friends start scholarships

July 19, 2023
Marialice and Jon Bennett

By Rebecca Walters
July 19, 2023

While visiting the University of Iowa to accredit a community pharmacy residency program, best friends Marialice Bennett ’69 and Anne Burns ’80 traveled to the Field of Dreams. Never mind that the tourist attraction stemming from the 1989 baseball flick was closed for the day, these women were determined.

“It was literally a cornfield in the middle of nowhere,” Anne says. Meetings ran late that day, and it was dark when they pulled up still wearing their business suits. Undeterred, they “broke in” (meaning they stepped over a 2-foot chain). “We ran the bases [in heels], sat in the stands and did the wave.”

Dedicated to their friendship, pharmacy and Ohio State, these women and their husbands found a unique way to pay forward by establishing two scholarship funds in the colleges in which they have strong ties. Their husbands, Jon Bennett ’69, ’71 MBA and Tom Burns ’80, ’86, have engineering degrees in common and met one another via their wives.

While each couple donated to one of the two colleges, the scholarship funds bear all of their names — a reflection of their shared love for the university and one another.

“We are very committed to giving back to Ohio State because it has given us so much, including each other,” Anne says. “I think it’s awesome to have all four of our names on these scholarships.”The couples feel strongly that the Bennett/Burns scholarship funds help advance diversity in pharmacy and engineering.

“When I look around and see all white males on the boards I sit on, I think nothing will change if we don’t change,” says Tom, who founded and sold two businesses.

Anne and Marialice started in the pharmacy field when it was made up primarily of men. They were among the first women to hold faculty titles in the College of Pharmacy, teaching together from 1984 to 1997.

“We had a bond over taking care of our students and our own children,” Anne says. Today, she is recently retired after 25 years as vice president of professional affairs for the American Pharmacists Association. Marialice, who retired from Ohio State in 2015, volunteers for the APhA.

Anne and Tom Burns (Photo by Melissa Lyttle)
Anne and Tom Burns (Photo by Melissa Lyttle)

Appreciated at their alma mater and within their industry, their many accomplishments include the APhA’s top-tier Remington Honor Medal that went to Marialice in 2021 and the Ohio State College of Pharmacy’s Lifetime Achievement Award earned by Anne in 2022 and Marialice in 2015.

While Anne lives near Washington, D.C., and Marialice in Columbus, they remain close. “Distance is not a barrier to our friendship. We’ve been through it all — crises and happy times,” Marialice says. “Anne is my best friend, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. It all started because we went to Ohio State, which is a magical place. It goes well beyond your years as students.”

Tom and Jon give back and stay connected as well. Tom mentors teams at Ohio State’s Keenan Center for Entrepreneurship and is a guest lecturer in College of Engineering entrepreneurship courses. Jon, who enjoyed a successful career in banking and finance, is active in Program 60. He’s taken nearly 40 classes, studying “anything and everything — except engineering and business,” his two degree fields.

The Bennett/Burns scholarship funds benefit from support through the Scarlet & Gray Advantage Program, which matches donations of $100,000 or more.

Marialice and Tom are grateful for the scholarships they earned as students, and Anne and Jon are thankful their parents assisted with college expenses. “We are all interested in giving someone an opportunity like we had,” Marialice says. “I wish I would have started giving back earlier. It doesn’t have to be big dollars. Whether it’s time or money, start early so it becomes a part of your lifestyle.”

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The Jon and Marialice Bennett and Thomas and Anne Burns Pharmacy Scholarship Fund will provide support to underrepresented students in the College of Pharmacy who demonstrate financial need.

The Thomas and Anne Burns and Jon and Marialice Bennett Engineering Scholarship Fund will provide support to underrepresented students in the College of Engineering who demonstrate financial need.


This story was originally published by the Ohio State Alumni Magazine on

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