An update on the Spartan Scholarship Challenge program, as of April 2010.

Over 50 new undergraduate scholarships have been created and more than $1 million has been committed in the newly launched Spartan Scholarship Challenge. Officially launched November 1, 2009, the program leverages part of a $10 million gift in a novel matching program that already has proven to be popular with alumni and friends of MSU.

For James (Jim) Weigand (‘78, MBA, Business) and Tawnya Rowden (’73, ’86, Human Ecology), it was a chance to stretch their dollars and support in a long held personal commitment to direct their giving toward helping students. The couple has previously funded a number of scholarships at MSU and other institutions, but this was the first time their gift was matched.

Linton Hall, home to University Scholarships & Fellowships Advancement.

Courtesy: MSU Communications and Brand Strategy

In the Spartan Scholarship Challenge, for every two dollars a donor gives to establish a new scholarship endowment, one dollar will be designated from a portion of an anonymous $10 million gift to MSU. Jim and Tawnya used the opportunity to create an endowed scholarship in honor of Jim’s father, William R. Weigand.

Bob and Reggie Noto established the Noto Spartan Scholarship Challenge to celebrate Bob’s fifteenth anniversary serving as MSU’s vice president for Legal Affairs and 30 years as a higher education attorney. A preference for College of Music students was a natural fit for the Notos, who have made previous donations to benefit MSU music students and have made music education a family priority.

“We’ve been deeply impressed by the faculty and student performances we’ve attended,” Bob said. “Most important, helping the College of Music attract the best students is critical to public recognition of MSU’s commitment to excellence in the arts and humanities, a necessary component of the university’s success, central to its ability to bring the most talented faculty, students, and staff—whatever their disciplines—to MSU.”

The Spartan Scholarship Challenge has also hit a chord with many MSU Alumni Clubs who are using the opportunity to increase their scholarship support. Glenn Corliss (’63, ’67, Ag. and Nat. Resources) made an appeal to fellow members of the Twin Cities (Minnesota) MSUAA Club to utilize the challenge to create a new endowed scholarship by Spring 2010 so that a freshman can benefit the following fall. He started the ball rolling with a personal commitment of $5,000.

“There is more to an alumni club than to cheer on our teams,” Glenn said. “It is also very important to help students, especially at this time of great need.”

Among the first to step up to the challenge were a group of friends from within the University. This past fall, as MSU faced reductions in state funding, over 130 faculty and staff donated their annual raises back to the university to support student scholarships. Five friends took this a step further by pledging to give back their raises for several years while also capitalizing on the matching opportunity.

“Once a family budgets for setting aside an annual raise, it’s fairly easy to continue that allocation for additional years,” according to Jeff Kacos, ’71, who serves as MSU’s director of Campus Planning and Administration. “When my friend and colleague, Bill Latta, approached me, I thought it was a wonderful idea.”

Wives were consulted and the MSU Leadership Endowment for the Spartan Scholarship Challenge was created through gifts from Bill, ’73, ’75, ’83, and Mary Ann, ’74, Latta; Bill, ’89, and Cindy, ’89, Beekman; David Brower, ’69, ’70; David, ’75, ’80, and Debra ’77, Gift; and Jeff, ’71, and Phyllis Kacos.

To students at MSU, there is no more important help than the gift of a scholarship. Scholarships ease the financial burden for students who otherwise might not have been able to afford the opportunity. MSU senior Jeremy Blaney came to MSU after four years in military service and noted he was humbled to receive a scholarship. “The gift of a scholarship is life-changing and transformative,” he said. “A Spartan can really change another Spartan’s life, who in turn could change another Spartan’s life…making it possible for one Spartan to really change the world.”

This article was originally posted to the University Development website on April 13, 2010.

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