SJR Column, Scholarships, December, 2013
December is a time of year when acts of generosity are perhaps more visible than usual; but, as Chancellor of the Springfield campus of the University of Illinois, I see the very tangible impact of generosity every day all year round. The generosity I’m talking about is that of the friends, alumni and supporters of our university who invest in talented students by providing them with scholarships to attend college.
According to a recent “Who Pays” analysis, only about one-third of undergraduate students who attend UIS are able to pay for college using their own family resources. For the other two-thirds, the greatest obstacle to attaining a college degree is financial. It is a scholarship provided by a generous donor that makes all the difference.
There are hundreds of stories on the UIS campus that illustrate the difference a scholarship can make. Every one of those stories is unique and powerful – including the story of Jasmine Torres-Gonzales. Jasmine comes from a low-income background and is the only one in her entire extended family to graduate from high school and attend college. “In my community,” Jasmine says, “people don’t expect Latinos to graduate high school or go off to college. No one in my family even knew what college was and I knew we couldn’t afford it.”
But despite the challenges of her circumstances, Jasmine was inspired by her mother to excel in high school and she qualified for admission to the prestigious UIS Capital Scholars Honors Program. More importantly, Jasmine was selected to receive the Lee Humphrey Dodd Memorial Scholarship, a scholarship that has made it possible for her to attend UIS, where she has blossomed as a successful student and a campus leader.
Longtime Springfield residents Howard and Lynda Humphrey established this scholarship in memory of their daughter, Lee, and Jasmine is not the only student to benefit from the Humphreys’ generosity. Six other UIS students are also receiving a Lee Humphrey Dodd Memorial Scholarship this year and the family has two other endowed funds that provide scholarships for student-athletes and for students to study abroad.
In a recent conversation with Lynda, I asked her what motivated her and her late husband to be such generous supporters of UIS students. “Howard and I have always felt that education is most important,” she said, “and our daughter, Lee, would have wanted that, too.”
There may be no better time than the present to help a student achieve their dream of a college education. The University of Illinois’s Access Illinois Scholarship Initiative is in its third and final year. Through June 30, 2014, a one-for-one match is being offered for qualified new scholarship gifts and for additional contributions to existing Access Illinois scholarships – doubling the impact of the donor’s contribution. (A scholarship gift of $10,000, for example, results in $20,000 in scholarship support for students.) So far, 1,283 gifts have been made to the Springfield campus through the Access Illinois Initiative and over $1.2 million has been generated for student scholarships.
Jasmine Torres-Gonzales will graduate from UIS next Spring with a major in Criminal Justice. Her long-term goal is to become a Chief of Police … and make a difference in society. “I would like to give a big thank you to the Humphrey family for investing in my future,” she says.
As Chancellor of UIS, I am deeply grateful to the Humphrey family and to the many other generous supporters who believe in us and who support deserving students with their contributions to scholarship funds. It truly is an investment in the future of a student and the future of our state.
[If you would like to discuss a scholarship gift, please contact the UIS Office of Development by phone at 217.206.6058 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.]