Financial gifts change students’ future. Every dollar matters.

This Thanksgiving season, I am grateful for the generosity of the many people who have given scholarships to our students. I can’t think of a more impactful gift than helping young people complete their educational goals.

UWF has approximately 300 scholarships, 86% of which are fully documented, and their value ranges from $500 to $50,000. The scholarship value exceeds the numerical figure, and the true impact is difficult to measure.

Big gifts, such as the recent $8.5 million endowment from Rolfs, have provided scholarship opportunities for many students for many years, as well as invaluable resources for entire departments. The Pace Presidential Scholarship and the Argo Spirit Scholarship, totaling more than $50,000 each, pave the way for the brightest new Florida residents to pursue their studies at the UWF without financial hurdles. The Argo Spirit Scholarship specifically rewards students who have demonstrated personal strength in high school – students who we’d love to see make a difference on our campus.

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These are examples of great gifts with great impact. You cannot deny the impact of any amount of financial support which, for some students, opens doors to higher education without an insurmountable cost.

Giving also provides an opportunity to honor someone you love with a scholarship award. Last March, a retired chemistry professor gave funds to the university to create the Michael T. Huggins Dean’s Chemistry Scholarship in honor of the Dean of the Hal Marcus College of Science and Engineering, Dr. Mike Huggins. This endowment will provide support, as well as maintenance or purchase of scientific equipment for the Chemistry Department.

Departmental scholarships are perfect examples of small gifts with huge impacts. The Roy and Henrietta Heminghouse Chemistry Scholarship supports students in the Department of Chemistry, while the Alberta Reeves-Lambourne Scholarship supports students pursuing degrees in nursing.

“I was able to focus on my teaching and lessons for the last semester without having to worry about finances,” said Elisa Agben, Alberta Reeves Lambourne Nursing Scholarship recipient. “On behalf of all the students and families working to overcome the financial difficulties of higher education, I want to thank you once again for all you are doing.”

No matter the amount, any gift to support education has an impact on generations of college students.

“As a non-traditional student, this gift means more than you could ever know,” said Julie Reiser, a health and physical education expert who received the first-generation scholarship. “When I saw that I had received all the aid I would need to cover this term, I cried. I didn’t have to worry about making payments for my personal future that I might not have been able to afford. I had people generous enough to give me a chance while I pursue my dream.”

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at University of West Florida.

This article originally appeared in the Pensacola News Journal: Financial Gifts Changing Students’ Futures. Every dollar counts. | Martha Saunders

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