As I reflect on this Thanksgiving season, I am so grateful for family and friends. It is my family and my friends that have been a continued blessing throughout my life; I cherish these relationships.
As I think about continued blessings and the wonderful University where I work, I think about a very special group of people; these are individuals and families who have endowed scholarships that benefit students now and in perpetuity. We recently invited them to our campus for a scholarship reception. It was a beautiful event where our scholarship recipients had opportunity to personally thank the donors for their generosity.
This year, 81 endowed scholarships were awarded to 108 students, resulting in $177,750 of funding to assist with student tuition. As I read through the personal stories of individual donors and the reasons behind their giving, I was filled with gratitude for their generosity towards young people they had never met. I share some of them below.
We have had alumni establish endowments as a way of saying thank you to a school that shaped their lives. An example of this is an elementary school teacher who wanted to help carry on the teaching work that was so important in her life.
Another fund was set up in honor of a man born in Cleburne in 1903 who attended this University from 1921 to 1924 and went on to become a real estate developer in Dallas. Income from this fund is still used to aid students who face the possibility of being unable to continue their studies without financial help.
A third individual who attended our university in 1900 dedicated his life to his church for over 70 years. A scholarship in his name is intended for ministerial students in memory of the many years he served in the ministry.
A single parent who became a nurse and administrator, sympathized with other single parents who juggled career, parenting and education. In her spirit of service for others, a scholarship for a single parent pursuing a degree was established in her name.
Thirty years ago, a student association president reached out to former SA presidents, and created a scholarship fund composed exclusively of gifts from former SA presidents. This leadership scholarship is to encourage and promote student leadership, as students are selected based upon the demonstration of leadership, as well as the participation in campus life. All current students are eligible except the current SA president.
While the individual donor stories are all different, each is inspired by a common attitude — every donor gave with a grateful heart and changed a student’s life forever. As our students reflect on their gratitude to the donors this Thanksgiving season, they are reminded how a donor’s sacrifice eased their financial burden, allowing them to focus on the more important aspects of school. Our students have vowed to someday as a result of the investment, make a tangible, positive difference for someone else.
One student shared that she was the first in her family to attend college, and that she wouldn’t have been able to finish her degree without the help of the donor. I know that this is just one of many stories where our students are blessed through the generosity of Christian education through an endowed scholarship.
On this special Thanksgiving weekend, I am overwhelmed with sincere gratitude for the families who created these scholarship endowments. These endowments will be a continued blessing for our students for years to come.
As I reflect on the early stories of Thanksgiving and the beginnings of this great country, I am reminded of what our Declaration of Independence says. We are all endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights, among them being life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As the endowed scholarships are a continued blessing to our students, I am reminded that we each are endowed with gifts that can be a continued blessing to those around us.
This coming Tuesday is the National Day of Giving, a day when individuals can be a blessing as they support organizations for which they are passionate.
The residents of Johnson County have an opportunity to support the future of Christian education right here at home by going to www.swau.edu/DayOfGiving; our students would be grateful!
Dr. Ken Shaw is president
of Southwestern Adventist University