Investing in futures

Posted: May 31, 2016

Three engineering students participate in a panel discussion during the Scholarship Luncheon.
Ross Scholars (from left) Emily Reed, Sam Luther and Amy Chiu shared their stories of the impact of receiving scholarships during the annual Scholarship Luncheon.
Scholarships provide the gift of opportunity, enabling students to obtain a world-class education at Ohio State.

By lessening the financial burden, scholarships also allow students to focus on their passions and make an impact through community service.

As a Humanitarian Engineering Scholar, computer engineering major Emily Reed was able to travel to Honduras to build a wind turbine for an orphanage that supports children with HIV and aids. Amy Chiu, an industrial and systems engineering major, worked at research think tank CERN in Switzerland to help develop a prototype for water systems in urban India. And as president of the university’s largest student-run philanthropy, BuckeyeThon, recent electrical engineering graduate Vick Chhabria ('16) helped raise $1.3 million to end childhood cancer during this year’s dance marathon.

These are just some of the inspiring stories shared at the 15th annual College of Engineering Scholarship Luncheon. The event celebrates the hundreds of donors who make a direct impact on students’ lives and the scholarship recipients they support.

Receiving scholarships made it possible for Veronica Beiring to attend college. Now the electrical and computer engineering major plans to graduate from Ohio State with both bachelor’s and  master’s degrees via the BS/MS program.

“Scholarships mean that I have the opportunity to go to college,” Beiring said. “Receiving scholarships, especially from my donors, is really meaningful because I know that they’re supporting me in what I want to do in the future, which is similar to what they do. It’s like keeping a line going.”

That’s exactly what Tom Thomas (’66, electrical engineering) had in mind when he established the Thomas L. Thomas Scholarship in Engineering.

“I had zero money when I came here. I never would have been able to go to college without scholarships and I never forgot that,” Thomas said. “So we saved our money and endowed a scholarship for six to eight students per year, because someone did it for me.”

Donors pose with a diverse group of student recipients of the scholarship they endowed.
Donors Tom and Jan Thomas with recipients of the scholarship they endowed.

The oldest of eight children, Thomas didn’t know anyone who had attended college before he stepped foot onto Ohio State’s campus. Today, he enjoys investing in the next generation of Buckeyes.

“We think there are few things you can invest in that have a bigger pay off than young people who are committed to doing good things with what they learn. It’s really a great investment and it’s also a recognition and respect for the people who helped us,” Thomas explained.

Beyond financial support, many scholarships also include a mentorship component.

Merry Engineering Scholarship recipient Annie Carter, a civil engineering major, gained a valuable mentor in Bob Redfield, who created the scholarship to honor his late wife, Carolyn Merry.

“Whenever I have questions about civil engineering jobs or engineering in general, he is the one I turn to,” Carter said.

Merry, a former chair and professor of civil engineering at Ohio State, was passionate about mentoring young women.

“Carolyn was somewhat of a pioneer. There were very few women that got into engineering back when she first got into it. So a lot of her career was dedicated to being a role model and to encouraging young women to consider engineering as a career,” said Redfield. “Being able to follow on in her footsteps has been an important part of my life.”

Scholarships also give students the opportunity to explore different areas of engineering. When Carter ultimately decided that engineering physics was a better fit for her than civil engineering, Redfield was supportive.

“She was a little worried and asked, ‘Should I still have the scholarship?’ I said, ‘Absolutely!’, because Carolyn would be thrilled that it gave her the ability to sample and set her on a career course that she thinks is better suited to her,” he said. “That was what my wife was all about.”

Not only does scholarship support enable aeronautical and astronautical engineering major Kaitlin McTague to obtain a quality education, it also bolsters her family’s ability to ensure her younger siblings can do the same.

"Scholarship support doesn’t just impact me, it impacts my entire family," said Kaitlin McTague (left), pictured here with her mother, Karen.
“I have a younger brother and sister who are also both in college right now; the financial responsibility of which has fallen on my mother’s shoulders,” McTague said. “Scholarship support doesn’t just impact me, it impacts my entire family. And, I, my brother and sister, and my mother will be forever grateful for that.”

This personal account reflects how scholarships play a key role in the university’s accessibility and affordability efforts.

In his 2020 Vision for the university, President Michael V. Drake took a strong stance on affordability and access, launching $15 million in President’s Affordability Grant program for Ohio undergraduates in 2015-16. For the 2016-17 academic year, the program has expanded to $20 million with the goal of helping approximately 15,700 undergrads. 

Total gift aid awarded to engineering students in fiscal year 2015, including university and departmental scholarships and grants, surpassed $39 million. That’s a $23 million increase from just six years ago.  

“Thousands of our alumni are paying forward to make college more affordable,” said Dean David B. Williams. “Thanks to their generosity, we have more scholarships than ever for our students.”

That generous investment in their future is something scholarship recipients don’t take lightly.

“My scholarship donors have paved the way, teaching me the true importance of philanthropy,” Chhabria said. “As the next generation of engineers, architects, city and regional planners, we gladly welcome the responsibility to pay it forward in whatever ways we can.”

Ready to make a difference in the lives of talented, young people?
To make an immediate impact in the lives of Buckeye engineering and architecture students, please consider making a contribution to the College of Engineering Scholarship Fund (302281) or the Knowlton School of Architecture Scholarship Fund (312560). Gifts can be made online at (Direct links to fund #302281 & #312560) or via mail, phone or electronic funds transfer.

by Candi Clevenger, College of Engineering Communications,