MU receives $1 million estate gift for student veteran scholarships

Wednesday, November 13, 2013 | 9:37 p.m. CST; updated 11:30 p.m. CST, Wednesday, November 13, 2013

COLUMBIA — Recipients of the Col. Dwight B. Schannep U.S. Army Air Corps Veterans Scholarship Fund might never be able to thank their anonymous benefactors.

On Sept. 11, confidential donors pledged a $1 million estate commitment to fund academic scholarships for MU students who are military veterans, according to a release from MU News Bureau. An estate commitment is a financial promise in a donor's will, meaning the university will not receive the funds until the donors' deaths.

The donors, one of whom is a military veteran, gave three reasons for why MU was chosen to receive these funds, according to a quote from them in the release. First, the donors said many veterans are from Midwestern states, and Columbia wouldn't be far for them. Second, MU's wide range of degrees gives veterans ample choice when choosing a program. Lastly, the donors said MU's academic excellence, especially the School of Journalism, would attract veterans from across the country.

One of the donors has a military friend who is a family member of Col. Dwight B. Schannep, for whom the scholarship is named. Schannep was a Versailles, Mo., native and graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Schannep served in the Army Air Corps during World War II and died in a military plane crash after the war.

The connection to Schannep is a driving force in the donors' wish for confidentiality. MU's University Advancement office knows the identities of the donors and has respected their desires.

"We (University Advancement) have expressed that we would love to be able to share their story because it's so compelling," Tom Hiles, University Advancement vice chancellor, said. "They want the focus on the veteran they want to honor."

Student recipients of the scholarship will be advised through MU's Veterans Center, which offers academic resources as well as health, social and family support.

"The gentleman (one of the donors) made quite a study of veterans centers across the nation," MU Veterans Center Director Carol Fleisher said. "That's how he landed on ours."

The scholarship is "unrestricted," meaning veterans from any military branch who have served in active duty are eligible, Fleisher said.

Fleisher explained that many of MU's approximately 360 veterans are older and do not have parents to fall back on for financial support. Most are also working toward self-sufficiency, and many work two to three jobs to pay for school and other expenses.

"It's a big stress," Fleisher said. "Especially on the married ones."

While the criteria details are still being hashed out, the scholarship will most likely be a "full" scholarship to one or two veterans annually, Hiles said, covering tuition as well as room and board and other fees.

"They really want to de-stress these veterans," Hiles said. "They want to keep them out of student loan debt, especially after serving our country."

Supervising editor is Allie Hinga.

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