George Paz never doubts the value of his college education.
His family didn’t have many financial resources when he was growing up, but he worked his way through school at the University of Missouri–St. Louis to get into the business world. Later, he climbed the corporate ranks to become chairman and CEO of a Fortune 20 company.
Now, the retired Express Scripts executive and his wife, Melissa, are working to ensure other students have access to some of the same opportunities at his alma mater. They have made a gift of $4 million to support scholarships for UMSL students.
It is the largest single philanthropic donation in the university’s history.
“My father was insistent that education was key to building better lives for ourselves and strongly encouraged us to get a college degree,” said Paz, who earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration and accounting in 1982. “UMSL offered a quality, affordable education and flexibility so I could work and attend school – everything I needed to be successful. It was outstanding preparation for what I would experience in the business world. I learned more than what comes from textbooks. I saw opportunities and what the future may hold.”
Paz, currently in his second year of a three-year term as president of UMSL’s Chancellor’s Council, has maintained a strong connection with UMSL since he graduated, even relocating Express Scripts corporate headquarters onto UMSL’s North Campus in 2007.
Express Scripts has served as a primary benefactor for the Bridge Program’s Saturday Academy, which has served high school students across the St. Louis region, in addition to supporting internships, academic programs, diversity initiatives and community betterment projects that have continued after his tenure with the company ended.
“We are so thankful for George and Melissa’s generosity on behalf of our students,” Chancellor Kristin Sobolik said. “Because of them, even more people, including many from disadvantaged backgrounds, will get to experience the transformative power of a college education. They in turn will join the legions of UMSL graduates helping to shape the future of the St. Louis region and beyond.”
Paz is well aware of the impact that UMSL continues to have as one of the top 100 schools in the country in facilitating social mobility, according to a U.S. News & World Report ranking that measures how successful universities are at graduating students who receive federal Pell Grants.
The university takes pride in providing access to affordable, high quality education to a diverse group of students in the most economically important region in Missouri. Many of those students come from low-income backgrounds with 80 percent receiving some form of financial aid.
“George just gets it. He knows from experience that there are plenty of talented students out there who, through no fault of their own, simply cannot afford higher education without the help of scholarships,” said Paul Herring, vice chancellor of university advancement. “George selected UMSL as a philanthropy of choice because he knows our students seek that upward trajectory. UMSL alumni are strong contributors to the St. Louis workforce and community.”