Centre College announces full-ride scholarships for first-generation students

by Centre College News

Centre College News
Students in an outdoor classroom during the fall.

Centre College’s flagship first-generation scholarship program has received another boost.

The Grissom Scholars Program was established as a full-tuition scholarship in 2014 with a gift from Marlene and David Grissom '60 to provide college access and affordability for 10 first-generation students at Centre every year, totaling 40 in the program at a time. It will now cover the cost of room and board and continue to provide $5,000 in enrichment funding for each scholar to participate in educational opportunities such as study abroad, student research, and internships.

This additional gift by the Grissom family expands their original gift, made in 2014, that remains the largest single gift ever received in Centre College’s 205-year history. A 1960 Centre graduate and trustee emeritus, David Grissom served on the Centre College Board of Trustees for more than 50 years and chaired the Board for more than two decades.

“At Centre, our mission is to prepare students for lives of learning, leadership, and service. David and Marlene Grissom’s philanthropy exemplifies that mission and passes it on to high-achieving first-generation students who have the character and leadership needed to become change-makers in their own communities,” Centre President Milton C. Moreland said. “The Grissom Scholarship Program provides transformational support that benefits these students and their families, and through them, the College, the Commonwealth, and our world.”

Centre provides more than $47 million in financial aid and grants to students each year, gaining national recognition as an institution that provides extensive support and resources to its students. In 2023, the College received a $1 million grant to join the Kessler Scholars Collaborative, a national network of first-generation focused institutions providing personal mentorship and over $5,000 in support funding for each Scholar. 

In 2023, the College also received an additional $10 million commitment from Marlene and David Grissom to fund the Thrive Program for first-generation students. Thrive provides each student $5,000 in flexible wraparound funding to use for such things such as study abroad, travel to and from campus, textbooks, and a laptop. Now in its inaugural year, there are more than 50 students in the Thrive Program. When full, there will be more than 200 recipients receiving Thrive funding on campus at a time. 

The Grissom, Kessler and Thrive Programs make up the Centre College First-Generation Guarantee. Each incoming first-generation student at Centre is promised a place in one of these programs. The expansion of the Grissom Scholars Program funding bolsters extensive financial and personal support to first-generation students and will begin with the incoming class of Grissom Scholars in fall 2024.

David Grissom shares with Grissom Scholars.
David Grissom '60 calls on a Grissom Scholar during the 2023 Grissom Scholar luncheon. 

“Grissom Scholars are shining examples of students who excel in and out of the classroom,” David Grissom said. “From class valedictorians to student government presidents, we are thrilled to see that first-generation students have the opportunity to lead an enriched experience at one of the best colleges in the nation.”

Recent Grissom Scholar graduates include Joshua Daniel Sto Domingo ‘23, a current doctoral student at the University of California, who was a class valedictorian. Kristen Bryant ’23 was awarded a Fulbright and is teaching English in Taiwan. Current Grissom Scholar and Student Government Association President Hailey Finch noted that the Grissom Scholarship allows students to be their very best.

“Grissom is the reason I get to have a college experience at all,” Finch said. “Through the scholarship and its benefits, I have been able to focus on my education, rather than having to worry about paying for technology, textbooks, school supplies, or even study abroad programs. I have studied abroad three times, been able to partake in a lot of extracurriculars, and have had the support system to run for and serve as Student Body President.”

Since the program’s inception, Centre has seen its first-generation student population grow from 9 to 21 percent of the student body. Students in the program boast an impressive graduation rate of 94 percent and represent 22 states. Additionally, Grissom Scholars are likely to take advantage of Centre’s nationally ranked study abroad program — scholars have used enrichment funding to study abroad in more than 25 different countries.

As the College remains committed to providing access, opportunity and personal support to its students, Grissom Scholars Program Director Sarah Scott ’93 noted how current students and alumni reinforce what makes Centre one of a kind.

“This announcement is a tribute to current Grissom Scholars and alumni in that we have been able to secure even more generous support for future generations in the program,” Scott said. “Their incredible success has paved the way for others.”

“The Grissom Program, along with the Kessler Scholars Program and the Thrive program, provide tremendous financial support for our amazing first-generation college students. I know no other college in the nation that has dedicated more resources to first-generation students than Centre. We are lucky beyond measure to have the incredible support of Mr. and Mrs. Grissom, who had the wisdom to recognize the great need for fair access to education, and the generosity to provide deserving students with incredible opportunities that set them up for a lifetime of success.”


centre logo small

Grissom Scholars

94 percent graduation rate

22 states represented

2 Fulbright Scholars

1 Centre student government president

1 Centre valedictorian

3 John C. Young Scholars

More than 25 study abroad countries visited


1 PhD

2 MAs

4 in doctoral programs

7 in MA programs

2 in med school

2 in law school