Scholarship luncheon connects recipients and donors

The campus event underscored Drake’s ability to provide access to education

Drake University scholarship recipients and the benefactors who make those scholarships possible shared a hearty meal and warm conversation at the University’s third annual Celebrating Scholarships luncheon held November 11.

Amid the clinking of silverware and the warm buzz of conversation, the prepared words of thanks and the improvisational jazz performance, an engaged listener could discern a common refrain:

“Drake is the place where I got my start in the world.”

That’s how Mike Mason, LA’68, puts it. The former Sigma Alpha Epsilon member chose Drake for its best-in-conference basketball team and exceptional law school. He ended up in a lifelong and rewarding career in the commodities business.

Unlocking the future

Jessa Mordini, a sophomore pre-pharmacy student, is currently finding her way at Drake. But before she could get in the door, she needed financial assistance.

As the oldest of four children, she understands that tuition costs can put a financial strain on a family. She receives a Mason Family Scholarship from Mike Mason and his wife, Judy.

“The scholarship takes a lot of stress off of my parents,” Mordini says. “With your support, and with my hard work, Drake will help me to be who I want to be and achieve the change I want to see.”

That’s what Mike Mason likes to hear — especially from the student that he and his family are helping through college.

“We like giving back to help people live better, and to make our money work in the most direct way possible,” Mason said. “That’s what we found here at Drake.”

A commitment to access

This year’s scholarship luncheon came at a time when students are particularly hungry for financial aid. Without the support of scholarships and grants, students may find Drake’s transformative academic experience to be out of reach.

It’s a problem that keeps Drake University President David Maxwell awake at night, he says, despite the University’s presence on multiple “Best Value” lists in publications such as Kiplinger’s and U.S. News and World Report.

U.S. News and World Report ranks Drake at the top of the list for academic reputation among the 13 master’s or comprehensive universities with which we compete — and 12th in that group for cost, due in large part to the generosity of donors.

The annual tuition increase at colleges and universities, averaging 6.3 percent nationwide, has held at 4.3 percent at Drake.

“This administration and this Board of Trustees is dedicated to ensuring that Drake is an accessible choice to students, both now and in the future,” Maxwell says. “Ninety-eight percent of Drake University students receive financial aid. And, thanks in large part to the generosity of our donors, the University awarded $48 million in financial aid this year.”

Paying it forward

Ward Reynoldson, former chief justice of Iowa, offers a personal explanation for giving.

“I had help, too,” he says.

A U.S. Navy veteran, Reynoldson attended University of Iowa’s law school under the GI Bill. He chose to make a meaningful contribution to fund a scholarship at Drake Law School in the name of his late first wife, Janet, who earned her J.D. in 1965 and served as a University trustee.

Laurie Heron, a third-year law student, is the current recipient of the Janet Reynoldson Memorial Scholarship. Though she never met Janet Reynoldson, Heron — a full time student and mother of five — feels that Janet would have been a kindred spirit. Janet Reynoldson was also raising children when she studied at the Law School.

“I would not have gone to law school if it hadn’t been for the Reynoldson scholarship,” Heron says. “Period. There’s no way I could have responsibly taken on the debt. Because of them, I’m able to pursue my dream. I’m managing editor of the Drake Law Review. It’s all happening because of their generosity.”

Find more information about endowing a scholarship at Drake online.

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