President’s Scholarship Initiative reaches $52 million for students

By Linda Nguyen
Staff Writer

The $100 million President’s Scholarship Initiative, which President Ken Starr announced Sept. 15, 2010, is nearing the end of its three-year collection period. It is set to end May 2013.

The initiative focuses on making a Baylor education more affordable to more students. So far, $52.5 million of the target $100 million has been raised.

Richard Willis, co-chairman of the President’s Scholarship Initiative along with his wife, Karen Willis, said affordability is important.

Willis said this issue holds a place close to their hearts.

“This is an issue that’s really important to my wife and I,” Willis said. “We were really poor and worked hard to put ourselves through school.”

He graduated from Baylor in 1981 and his wife graduated from Baylor in 1985.

“We’re trying to support more students,” Willis said. “I’m invested in this; President Starr is invested in this.”

The initiative seeks to help students by contributing in four areas: university endowed scholarships, which are primarily need-based; leadership endowed scholarships; athletics endowed scholarships; and “out-of-the-classroom” enriched endowed scholarships.

In 2009, Peyton, Colo., senior Jordan Ables was working three jobs to put herself through school at Baylor. Now Ables is still working at two of those jobs, but she’s also been getting more help from Baylor to offset her educational costs.

“For me, I think [getting a scholarship] was a little of everything: being a leader on campus and my work in social entrepreneurship,” Ables said.

Missouri City junior Toyin Akindona said she would not be at Baylor without the money from the President’s Scholarship Initiative.

“I decided at the end of my senior year that I wanted to go to Baylor,” Akindona said. “I got some money from the general merit-based scholarships, but it still wasn’t enough, so I called someone at the financial aid office and asked them to help me. At the beginning of the year, I trusted that God would provide, and he did. I got a lot of scholarships from the initiative.”

The initiative has only reached a little over 50 percent of its final goal, but students are confident the initiative will reach the $100 million goal.

“I definitely believe in Kenn Starr as a president,” Akindona said. “I think he will be able to pull it [the scholarship money] up with the year Baylor had. I think we’ll be seeing people coming out to donate money to Baylor on all sides.”

Ables also said she believes the President’s Scholarship Initiative will reach its goal.

“I think it will pick up, especially because we had a good sports year and because that’s what draws people,” Ables said. “I think we’ll get a lot more from people who would not normally be inclined to give, even in areas like academics.”