PITTSBURG - It's the first such gift to be made in Kansas by the Peter and Veronica Give Back Program — the Kansas arm of entrepreneur Bob Carr's Give Something Back. An additional gift was made today at Wichita State University, and two more are slated for Baker University and Kansas State University next week.
"It's so exciting to be able to be the first Kansas partner of the Give Something Back," said Kathleen Flannery, president and CEO of the PSU Foundation, in a ceremony Thursday held at the Wilkinson Alumni Center to officially recognize the gift and its donors.
The PSU Foundation always has had a goal of increasing scholarship dollars for students, Flannery noted, and the gift will advance that considerably.
PSU President Steve Scott called the gift "a story of generosity" that made for a special day on campus.
The story began with Carr, who grew up in Illinois and received a $250 scholarship to attend college. Today, he's a highly successful entrepreneur, philanthropist and author.
In 2003, he founded his non-profit, Give Back, which provides mentors and scholarships to give Pell Grant eligible students the opportunity to go to college and graduate in four years, debt-free.
The organization already has prepaid more than $35 million in scholarships to help more than 1,500 students go to 20 colleges in six states, and continues to grow.
Such students, Carr noted during Thursday's ceremony, might have been in the foster system, might be the children of incarcerated parents, or might have lost a parent to death. They might not have grown up having the tools, resources and support that other students preparing for college have, he said.
Students who benefit from his organization are identified in their ninth-grade year in order to prepare them for college, and are provided mentors and the tools to succeed. They are required to have a minimum 3.0 GPA in high school, take a college preparatory course load, and demonstrate strong character throughout the program.
Of those who have received such scholarships from Give Back, at least 90 percent have graduated from a four-year college; 100 percent of those graduates are employed and more than half have gone on to become mentors themselves.
To bring the program to Kansas, Carr worked with a business partner, Kansas native Peter Mallouk, whose wife, Veronica Yaghmour Mallouk, grew up in Pittsburg. Peter Mallouk is president and chief investment officer of Creative Planning, Inc., one of the largest independent wealth management firms in the country.
"We interviewed a number of schools in Kansas, and we chose four to work with," Carr said. "Pitt State was the first."
Scott said the relationship was a year in the making, and credited Flannery for her leadership in the process. He said there's tremendous need for such support of students, because PSU's funding is at the 2006 level, which has necessitated increasing tuition and fees to maintain the level of programming.
"The values of this organization really align with us – meeting needs of students who are deserving and who in many cases are first generation, who maybe don’t have the resources to come," he said.
The ninth graders chosen for the scholarships will be selected this fall and next spring, Carr said, kicking off an 8-year relationship between them, Give Something Back, and PSU, until they graduate in 2024.