When Mark McAndrew was given a college prep exam in high school that showed he had an aptitude for engineering, McAndrew replied, “But I don’t want to drive trains!”
Like many other young people from rural Clark County, McAndrew didn’t know what an engineer did. The majority of the jobs in the small county were in teaching or farming. Only 10 percent of the adults there had a college degree. McAndrew’s parents, Jack and Ladene McAndrew, were no exception.
In spite of that, McAndrew and one of his seven siblings went on to college. He was given a scholarship to attend MU and has long cherished that opportunity.
In return, McAndrew and his wife, Stephanie, have given $1.4 million to MU’s new Flagship Scholars program to provide four Clark County students each year with a four-year, full-ride scholarship — about $15,000 per year, per student. The program, in place for this fall, will begin with Audrain, Caldwell, Clark and Marion counties. Soon, one student every year from each of Missouri’s 114 counties will receive a four-year, full-ride scholarship, according to a MU news bureau release. Students whose parents didn’t attend college, who have shown exceptional leadership and service in their community and who show financial need will be given top priority.
The McAndrews’ gift was announced Thursday morning at a ceremony at MU’s Reynolds Alumni Center attended by the couple; Mark McAndrew’s father, Jack McAndrew; Chancellor Emeritus Richard Wallace; Deputy Chancellor Michael Middleton, a professor in the School of Law; and about 30 other people.
McAndrew attended MU for two years, leaving as a sophomore after having his first child, he said. He came back years later to earn his bachelor’s degree in business administration while working full time and supporting a family. He graduated in 1975. He is chief executive officer of Torchmark Corp., and lives in McKinney, Texas.
“About three months ago, we started talking about the program, and I wanted to contribute to one of the scholarships. Then I thought I could probably give enough money for two scholarships. After some more thinking, I just thought, why not do the whole county,” McAndrew said.
So few young people in rural communities consider college an option that they don’t see the opportunities that lie outside their home, McAndrew said.
“There are so many worthwhile things to do,” he said. Making these opportunities a reality for as many Clark County students as possible is the goal of the gift, he said.
“Missouri has fallen behind in the national average of college degrees,” Wallace said. About 24 percent of adults have college degrees in the state, in comparison to 28 percent of adults nationwide. Even worse, those numbers go down to 12 percent of adults in half of Missouri counties, Wallace said.
Wallace said giving a boost to the Flagship Scholars program, as McAndrew did, is an investment other alumni are sure to make.
College graduates make 60 percent more money than nongraduates, Wallace noted. A 2007 study found that college graduates are also healthier, volunteer more and demonstrate more civic involvement than noncollege graduates, Wallace said.
McAndrew named his donation The Jack and Ladene McAndrew Flagship Scholarship in honor of his parents, who didn’t have the opportunity for a higher education, he said. He was moved to tears as he thanked his father and late mother for all they’ve done. They taught him the values of “an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay,” McAndrew said.
Dena Eddleman, a MU senior from Kahoka, will be the first Clark County Flagship Scholars recipient, even if just for a year.
She personally thanked McAndrew. “He has made my dreams come true, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Eddleman said. After college, she said she plans to continue her passion for cooking and attend culinary arts school.