Both of us are first-generation college attendees and graduates. It was a struggle for us both to find the money to complete college. Ken was in the first graduating class at the College of DuPage and then transferred to Northern Illinois University (NIU).
I worked full-time and spent nine years commuting to the University of Illinois at Chicago to complete three years of college. In my final year, I was able to transfer to NIU and attend school full time to finish my degree. After teaching for two years, I was offered a fellowship at NIU, which paid my tuition, fees, books, materials and a stipend to obtain my master’s degree and administrative certification.
When we created the scholarship, we wanted to lift the financial burden for first-generation college students so that they could concentrate on their classes. Our hope is they use the scholarship to pay for tuition, fees, books, supplies, lab expenses or any other costs that would be a barrier to taking classes, such as transportation, childcare, etc.
We try to meet each recipient and offer mentoring and encouragement so that they feel supported in addition to the finances. Many of the students chose to keep in touch after leaving Harper, and they continue to share their journey as they pursue another degree, certificate or employment. Many of our scholarship recipients say that they miss Harper for its smaller class sizes, great faculty who are focused on student success and the supportive learning environment.
We love following them as they realize their dreams. We’ve seen graduations from a physician assistant program, two bachelor’s degrees in finance, two associate’s in human services . . . along with marriages and other major milestones.
We originally endowed the scholarship when we were married. Many who wanted to honor our marriage contributed to the scholarship. Also, we discovered that Ken’s employer, Union Pacific Railroad, had a matching gift program. Harper employees chose to dedicate their payroll deduction to our scholarship.
Besides our personal contributions, we have had $35,000 contributed to our fund. We also contribute to the scholarship by honoring special occasions of family and friends, such as special anniversaries, retirements and special birthdays. Also, we make gifts in memory of our friends and family when they pass away.
Founding Scholarship Donor