America Supports You: University Offers Scholarships
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 10, 2005 A Pennsylvania university is putting its values and money to work for the sons and daughters of servicemembers who make the ultimate sacrifice.
"It's just the right thing to do," said Widener University President James T. Harris said during a telephone interview with the American Forces Press Service.
The genesis of the idea came when faculty and students at the four-year undergraduate school began being called up and deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. "I was speaking with a fellow faculty member," Harris said, "and we wondered if there was something we could do."
Harris said he went back to his office and began "crunching numbers." He found enough money in the scholarship budget to offer four full scholarships to the university. The offer equals $100,000 for one student for a four-year degree.
Harris said the university "took it out of hide," and he did no additional fund-raising to get the money.
He presented the idea to the university's board, and the board members unanimously approved it. The board also went along with the program's long-term commitment - some of the servicemembers killed in action have young children who won't be old enough for college for many more years.
Harris began the process after the November election because "I didn't want politics to intrude. No matter how you feel about the war in Iraq, as Americans, we should still honor those who serve."
It's called Widener CARES - for Children of Active and Reserves Educational Scholarships. The program is open to the sons and daughters of servicemembers killed in action in operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. It is a national program.
The university - in Chester, Pa., part of the greater Philadelphia area - spent some of its early life as Pennsylvania Military College. The school today still retains a "good-sized" Army and Air Force ROTC program, Harris said.
"We think this is an appropriate thing for a university to do," he said. "We talk all the time about educating young men and women to be good citizens. This is a way for our university to show that the institution is also a 'good citizen.'"
The first children in the program could begin in September, Harris said. He said the program can take a huge financial burden off families already coping with the loss of a loved one, often the primary breadwinner in the family.
He said he hopes other colleges follow Widener's example. "There are more than 3,000 colleges and universities in America," he said. "If each one offered a scholarship, most of the children of those killed in action could receive a college education."