Gifford Scholar: Dr. Andrew J. Rurka

From 1957-1980 there were 134 “Gifford Scholars,” who attended college thanks to a scholarship. Recently Josie Rurka, sister to a former recipient, shared a remembrance of him and the impact the scholarship had on his life. Learn More »

DR. ANDREW J. RURKA, Pediatrician in Syracuse, New York (1945 – 2014)

By Josie Rurka

Born in 1945 to a Polish family living on the city’s poor west end, Andrew Rurka knew he wanted to be a doctor from the age of eight.  He had a good practicing pediatrician to look up to and learn from in Dr. Rosenberg (our family doctor – who had migrated from New York City).  He was a smart, very inquisitive young child and our mother Josephine, although severely hearing impaired, joined Dr. Rosenberg in attempting to answer Andrew’s many questions about sicknesses and the human body.  Andrew walked into the city to visit with the good Doctor at least once a week to ask questions, and was never ever turned away.  All through school he excelled – skipping both 8th and 10th grades as he was simply bored in the classroom and needed more challenges.

With help from the Gifford Foundation Scholarship Fund Andrew was able to attend one the most prestigious schools in the country right here in his own backyard – Syracuse University. He graduated as Valedictorian from Vocational High School (both within walkable distance from where we lived).  Being poor, our family earmarked every dollar for food and essentials. However our parents worked extra jobs and every day I collected returnable soda bottles and also held bake sales and sold real lemonade. With this we were able to help him with the purchase of his very expensive “used” medical books for school.

Andrew felt blessed that he was awarded the scholarship – he may not have become the pediatrician that he was destined to be without outside help.  So “Thanks” to the Gifford Foundation Scholarship Fund – which is no longer in existence – he was able to make his childhood dream a reality. Andrew became the same type of caring doctor as Dr. Rosenberg and paid it forward by nurturing other up and coming medical students from Syracuse University.

Andrew’s wish was to continue paying it forward after he could no longer “heal himself.” With his help the Gifford Foundation shall be able to help others – in his name – realize their dreams, whatever they are.

Were you or a family member a Gifford Scholar? If so we’d love to hear your story! Contact Heidi Holtz at 315-474-2489 x12 or by email

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