Sheryl Sandberg's Fiancé Tom Bernthal Honors Her Late Husband Dave Goldberg, Whom He Knew

Sheryl Sandberg announced this week the 16 high school seniors who will receive the 2021 Dave Goldberg Scholarship

Sheryl Sandberg
Sheryl Sandberg and Tom Bernthal. Photo: Tom Bernthal

Sheryl Sandberg and her inner circle — including fiancé Tom Bernthal — are making sure her late husband's spirit lives on by awarding a select few deserving high school students a special scholarship.

The Facebook COO, 51, announced this week the 2021 recipients of the Dave Goldberg Scholarship, a program established in Goldberg's honor two years after his tragic death in 2015.

Bernthal, who proposed to Sandberg in February 2020, recalled his personal relationship with his fiancée's former husband, and said that the process of giving high school seniors the support needed to further their educations is the perfect way to pay tribute.

"As one of the fortunate ones who had the privilege of knowing Dave personally, I've now seen firsthand how this program embodies his spirit of helping others have every opportunity to work hard and accomplish everything possible for themselves," Bernthal, the 47-year-old co-founder and CEO of Kelton Global, said in a statement. "Each and every class of students amazes me with all they've overcome and all they've achieved."

Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg
Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg. Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty

The scholarship program was established in 2017 by the Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg Family Foundation in partnership with the Knowledge Is Power Program Foundation, which operates 255 charter schools serving more than 112,000 students nationwide.

Sixteen high school seniors were chosen this year from hundreds of applicants, and each will receive financial support totaling approximately $15,000 per year, as well as a mentor and a network of professionals to help them on their internship and job hunts.

"When we created this program, we hoped to honor Dave's memory by lifting up a new generation of leaders who embody his best qualities," Sandberg said in a statement. "Finding ways to keep his memory alive — to do the good he would be doing if he were still with us — means the world to our family. We are thrilled to welcome this new class of scholars, and we have so much hope for the brighter future they will build for us all."

RELATED VIDEO: Sheryl Sandberg Is Engaged to Tom Bernthal After Being Set Up by Her Late Husband's Brother

Dave's brother Rob Goldberg also praised the program, and said that Dave would be "so proud" of how it has given students such extensive opportunities.

"It means so much to me and everyone who loved him that these students will extend Dave's legacy. Dave believed strongly in helping people and that everyone should have an equal chance to succeed in this world," the Fresno founder and CEO said in a statement. "He was constantly connecting people as a way of acting on that belief. He would be so proud to see how this program is helping these amazing scholars access the opportunities they deserve."

It was Rob Goldberg who first set up Sandberg and Bernthal in 2019, and the matchmaker told PEOPLE when they got engaged that he felt as though they both deserved to find love again after loss.

"Both of them have gone through loss, and just because you have gone through loss doesn't mean you aren't entitled to happiness and joy again," he said at the time. "They both came out of hard times of their lives still happy and motivated to make their lives better and their kids' lives better."

The couple was engaged in February 2020, with Bernthal using a ring with five tiny hidden diamonds underneath the setting to pop the question, with the jewels representing each of their five children (Sandberg has a son and a daughter, while Bernthal has three children).

In a recent letter to Bernthal published by Good Housekeeping, Sandberg said she "could barely imagine dating again, much less getting married" after losing Goldberg, but came around upon meeting her now-fiancé.

"When I shook your hand for the first time, I had no clue that you would be the one to change my life," Sandberg wrote to Bernthal. "I'd soon come to discover in much bigger ways your remarkable generosity and warmth as a partner and parent."

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