Alumnus funds scholarship for military-connected engineering students

Posted: November 10, 2022
Jason Forrester stands in the Numbers Garden behind Dreese Laboratories
Heinke Family Scholarship recipient Jason Forrester in the Numbers Garden

A generous gift from alumnus Ward Heinke ’81 and his wife, Liz, is helping veterans and other engineering students with a military connection earn electrical and computer engineering degrees.

The Heinke Family Scholarship is targeted toward second-year students—the group that traditionally has the most financial need.

“Clearly, the best thing for anybody is to graduate with as little debt as they can possibly carry,” Heinke said. “For my wife and me, this is our attempt to at least help a number of folks lighten that load.”

The Heinkes especially wanted to address the financial burden of college for military families who make numerous sacrifices while serving their country, including the ability to consistently earn two incomes. Throughout his 26 years in the Air Force, Heinke witnessed how many military families struggle to pay for college as a result of that sacrifice.

The dedicated veteran and retired colonel served as commander of the 608th Air Force Network Operations Center, a member of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, and deputy commander and chief of staff for the White House Communications Agency. Currently he is vice president, strategic alliances for Forcepoint’s Global Governments and Critical Infrastructure business unit.

“College can be challenging for a military family,” Heinke said. “We wanted to make sure this scholarship was focused on STEM and on a cohort of deserving students that may not come from a family of means, but have connected service to the country.”

The scholarship is a big boost for current recipient Jason Forrester, who served in the U.S. Navy as an electronics technician for six years after high school. During his time in the Navy’s nuclear propulsion program, Forrester discovered he enjoyed working with electronics and computer systems. He decided to pursue an electrical and computer engineering (ECE) degree after he was honorably discharged.

“Since I've been young, I've always enjoyed puzzle-solving, and electrical [engineering] and programming is pretty much just one big puzzle that you need to solve,” the second-year ECE major said.

The Heinkes with ECE Chair Shanker Balasubramaniam
From right, Liz and Ward Heinke with ECE Chair Shanker Balasubramaniam 

Forrester decided to attend Ohio State because of the quality of its engineering program. The university is also consistently named a top veteran-friendly school. U.S. News and World Report ranked Ohio State among the top 25 Best Colleges for Veterans and it received the Collegiate Purple Star, which recognizes Ohio colleges and universities that are supportive and inclusive of military-connected students.

Receiving the Heinke Family Scholarship not only helps reduce the financial burden of school, but it also enables Forrester to focus fully on his studies.

“It definitely reduces the stress of being able to attend school, especially when there's a lot of work to do,” Forrester said. “This scholarship means a lot and helps with those additional expenses that you don't expect and aren't covered [by GI benefits], like paying for books. I appreciate it very much.”

Heinke hopes the scholarship will help more students like Forrester experience the long-term benefits of earning an Ohio State engineering education.

“My education served me well in my years in the Air Force and has helped me immensely in my second career in the private sector as well,” Heinke said. “My wife and I met at Ohio State, so we have a strong attraction to the university and we really enjoy the ability to support the university in its mission. We’ve been very fortunate and this is our way of paying forward.”

Interested in paying forward like the Heinkes? Make a gift online to a scholarship fund or email to learn how you can help future Buckeye engineers.

by Candi Clevenger, College of Engineering Communications,