During Commencement 196, Centre College graduated its first cohort of Grissom Scholars, who achieved a 100 percent graduation rate. The inaugural Class of 2019 includes Allysson Becker, Thomas Case, Liz Chavez, Jon Jones, Leah Kelly, DeMontre’ Lewis, Valeria Garcia Lopez, Mariama Minteh, Bre Olson and Emmely Ovalle.
The Grissom Scholars Program offers 10 first-generation college students a full-tuition-plus scholarship valued at more than $150,000 over four years. These scholars have proven academic achievement, strong character and exceptional potential for leadership and participation in the life of Centre. Preference is given to students with substantial financial need who live in the U.S.
“I am honored and humbled to have worked with these 10 amazing students,” said Sarah Scott, director of the Grissom Scholars Program. “They were the first. They were the pioneers who shaped the Grissom program and set incredibly high standards for those who follow in their footsteps.”
According to Scott, “give it a try, see what happens,” was the unofficial mantra this group of students held throughout their time at Centre. While they were all accomplished in the classroom, they were just as accomplished outside of the classroom for all the times they put themselves out there—giving things a try without knowing the outcome.
Collectively, the students participated in research, internships, athletics, study abroad, theater, conferences, residence life, honorary organizations and student organizations, among other things.
“They truly have an abundance of courage,” she added.
Established by Marlene and J. David Grissom, the program is funded by the largest single gift ever received by Centre in the College’s 200 year history. believed to be the largest single donation ever to any Kentucky college or university, public or private. A 1960 Centre graduate and life trustee, Grissom chaired the Centre College Board of Trustees for more than two decades.
“None of this would have been possible without their vision and generosity,” Scott said. “The investment they have made in this program will never stop paying off. These students, going off to jobs or graduate or professional school, have been given the gift of opportunity.”
Scott said that while the students have benefitted from the scholarship, she believes Centre has benefitted even more.
Since the start of the program, every cohort has achieved a 100 percent retention rate. In addition, the first-generation student population has increased from nine percent to 20 percent.
“That’s about 140 students, so clearly, the growth is not all from students who receive the Grissom Scholarship,” she added. “It’s remarkable. By just letting high school students know that we value first-generation students, it has made a tremendous difference in being seen as an institution that is open and welcoming to students who have the courage to be first.”
by Kerry Steinhofer
May 30, 2019