Students and faculty member sitting together in discussion.

Eric’el Johnson (left) and Heela Momand join associate teaching professor Dan Gerth to discuss how UMSL scholarships have helped them. (Screenshot)

With the University of Missouri–St. Louis receiving more than $6.5 million in scholarship aid from generous donors last year, UMSL’s scholarship programs have made a huge financial impact on the lives of students.

But during UMSL’s 2021 Scholarship Recognition Luncheon, which was held online Friday and included remarks from Chancellor Kirstin Sobolik, current and former scholarship recipients talked about even more ways that UMSL’s scholarship programs have eased their burdens. 

Eric’el Johnson, a 2016 electrical engineering graduate, said that being awarded a Pierre Laclede Honors College Opportunity Scholarship also meant a pathway to a successful career. Johnson has been an engineer at Boeing for five years.

“I come from a working-class family, and college sometimes seemed out of reach financially,” Johnson said. “But having OSP support me and just having a great support system from the faculty and staff – always having my back, telling me about opportunities – has been game changing for me. Just having that support and getting the experience early on in my undergrad career put me a step ahead. It really opened up some doors for me.”

The Opportunity Scholarship, in its 10th year, provides an all-inclusive four-year scholarship and residential package to academically-gifted students who are first-generation college students and/or students who are underrepresented in their intended field. 

Kay Hood, a senior majoring in Japanese, said during the interactive portion of the meeting that receiving the Eugene J. Meehan Scholarship enabled her to focus on becoming a serious scholar.

“I’ve been working since I was in high school,” Hood said. “I care very deeply about my grades, and when I work a lot, it’s very hard for me to put my best foot forward. But because of the scholarship, I’ve been able to achieve a 3.99 GPA. I have one A-minus. And it’s all because I’ve been able to put 99 percent of my effort and focus into my studies.”

The Eugene J. Meehan Scholarship is awarded to junior and senior undergraduate students pursuing degrees in the College of Arts and Sciences. The scholarship was established in honor of Meehan, a Curators’ Professor Emeritus, who taught for more than 20 years in the Department of Political Science at UMSL before he died in 2002.

As one of 13 recipients this year, business student Tommy Hoffman values the mentorship aspect of the Enterprise Opportunity Drivers Scholarship. Created 10 years ago by a gift from the Enterprise Holdings Foundation to the College of Business Administration, the scholarship includes stipends for UMSL juniors and seniors who mentor scholarship recipients. 

“The ability to have an upperclassman mentor has meant so much to me,” Hoffman said. “To have an older friend or someone I can always go to to ask for advice, what classes to take, or what to avoid, what to try to get involved in, what clubs I should join. And overall to have someone pulling for me.”

Carolyn Kindle Betz, president of the Enterprise Holdings Foundation, said the foundation’s scholarship was created to give bright students an opportunity to contribute to the region’s economic growth.

“Since we first partnered with UMSL around this program, 41 students have received funding, 20 have graduated and 12 are employed at local firms,” Betz said. “Best of all, we have two graduates of the program working at Enterprise Holdings. I love that these students are from UMSL.”

Distinguished Alumni Awardees Stan and Terry Freerks said that their commitment to funding UMSL scholarships and ensuring access is for the greater good of the community.  

“We would like every person who desires a college degree to have access to a college education,” Stan Freerks said. “It’s a plus for them, their families and the community in which we all live. Each scholarship awarded is an investment in one, and in many.”

Ramona Curtis

Ramona Curtis