Donor Spotlight: Jeff Tanner, Dean Strome College of Business
One of the first things my wife, Karen, and I did when we arrived at the Strome College of Business almost two years ago was to establish the Karen & Jeff Tanner Endowed Scholarship. We did that for several reasons, but one of the most important was because a family named Comer established a scholarship at the University of Georgia (UGA) for entering doctoral students. You see, their gift was an important factor in my decision to enter the doctoral program there. It only seemed right that we pay that gift forward by doing the same at Strome.
Like the Comers, we established the scholarship to help attract students into the program. Using scholarships to recruit high achieving students is an important application of scholarships.
At Strome, though, we also know that many students have enough money to start college but may not have enough to finish college. In fact, money is the most frequent reason that students stop out. And sadly, the average amount they need is just a little over $1600. Scholarships, then, can also be a useful tool to retain students.
Last semester, I taught a class for the first time at Strome. My students are all graduating this spring, save one who graduated in December, so getting a job is an urgent task for all of them. I saw firsthand, though, that our students are not able to take advantage of all of the opportunities that support them in finding that job. Nearly all of them work, some two or three jobs, and finding time to shadow someone in the job they want or taking part in activities outside of class is next to impossible. I also saw that, while they are bright and hardworking, they lose time and energy for studying to their jobs. Scholarships, then, can also be a tool for unlocking the potential of our students by freeing them so that they can maximize the myriad opportunities at Strome.
With state support dropping, tuition increases seem inevitable. But I am proud of the way Strome alumni and friends are stepping up to fill the gap. Just in the past few months, we’ve grown the number of endowed scholarships by more than 10%. For the first time, we have two full-ride scholarships, thanks to the generosity of Gary and Garnet Gilmore (profiled elsewhere). We also have an exciting announcement coming with more scholarships in Accounting. Yet, we still have only about 60 endowed scholarships for business majors while we serve nearly 3000 undergrads and 500 graduate students!
By the end of the year, my goal is to have 100 endowed scholarships. Everyone, all alumni and friends, will be able to find a way to participate, whether it is honoring a beloved faculty member, using matching funds at work while encouraging alumni co- workers to participate, or simply paying back a scholarship by adding to the one you got.
While many alumni have commented to me on how much the campus has changed since they came to ODU, one thing has not. We continue to serve students in ways that make big differences in their lives. Scholarships are just one way we can all serve together.