Feature Stories Alumni: John Babbitt & family keep parents’ memory alive through scholarship

Scholarship donor
John Babbitt
Feature Stories Alumni: John Babbitt & family keep parents’ memory alive through scholarship
John Babbitt & family keep parents’ memory alive through scholarship

The Babbitt Family established a scholarship for current students in memory of his mother & father, who served on the Board of Trustees during UMass Dartmouth’s early days as SMTI.

Today, UMass Dartmouth’s expansive 710-acre campus blends the past with the present, preserving heritage while embracing contemporary advancements in education and infrastructure. Green plains and winding pathways connect modern buildings to others with concrete foundations dating back to the university’s origins as Southeastern Massachusetts Technological Institute (SMTI) in the 1960s, when it first started shaping futures with diplomas and dreams.

Before UMass Dartmouth evolved into the powerhouse for academic excellence and innovation that it is today, only a handful of structures and the campanile marked the landscape. But it was a campus that John Babbitt’s father and UMass Amherst engineering alum came to know and love as a member of SMTI’s Board of Trustees.

“When I think back on it, my father was probably here when the first buildings were being built on campus,” said Babbitt, thinking of his father with a fond smile as he surveyed UMass Dartmouth’s timeless campus. Growing up in the neighboring town of Westport, he witnessed his father contribute to the university’s development as a beacon of opportunity while running their 117-year-old family business, Babbitt Steam Specialty Company, the leading manufacturer of chainwheels worldwide, out of New Bedford, MA.

With Babbitt’s father passing in 1983, Babbitt still carried with him the enduring lessons about the profound value of education and the drive to be part of something impactful throughout his career. Along with the rest of his family, he supported his mother’s decision to establish an engineering scholarship at the university his father helped build from the ground up, reflecting his commitment to both academia and the engineering industry.

“The family and I thought that education was a fitting way to honor his life, especially here,” said Babbitt on the John I. Babbitt Scholarship Fund. “I don’t think there’s a better way to remember him.”

When Babbitt’s mother passed away in 2017, Babbitt and his family renamed the fund to the Babbitt Family Scholarship Fund, honoring her memory and love for education as well. This scholarship does everything that Babbitt’s parents envisioned for UMass Dartmouth and its dedicated students. While it provides critical financial support for engineering students pursuing their educational goals without burden, it also allows students to focus fully on their studies and professional growth, empowering them to strive for the extraordinary.

“The role that philanthropy plays in higher education is only growing, and it has to,” implored Babbitt. “College tuition is growing faster than anything else. Something has to give to make education more affordable, and it’s us, the people who want to make a difference.”

In creating the Babbitt Family Scholarship Fund, Babbitt perpetuates his parents’ unwavering commitment to education and ensures that the values his father fiercely believed in—of perseverance, learning, and making a difference—continue to live on through its recipients forever.