Dec. 19, 2006
By Jack Jeffery
As the holiday season approaches, Chillicothe resident Larry Gates stands out as the antithesis of Scrooge. While Charles Dickens' literary character needed a ghostly reminder to focus on the business of mankind, Gates and his wife, Mary, have been industrious about helping the youth of Ross County attain their dreams for years.
This year, 15 Ross County residents who are enrolled in colleges and universities throughout Ohio and beyond are better able to pursue their dreams because of the Gateses' generosity. The Gates Foundation - Ross County Scholar's Fund is supported by a gift to The Ohio University foundation from Mary and Larry Gates. The scholarship fund will eventually total approximately $10 million.
Three classes of students have received the renewable scholarships, which are intended to lessen the financial burden for students who have demonstrated the ability and ambition to succeed in college.
As senior vice president of human resources and administration for Philip Morris Companies, Mr. Gates was responsible for worldwide human resources for the multinational corporations and traveled the globe before retiring in 1998.
While gaining a worldwide view, the Gateses never lost their perspective.
"Living on the cusp of Appalachia you see the disparity. Many of our young people have no understanding of the impact of a global economy and how discouraged they may become with their life choices without university training," Mr. Gates said. "I firmly believe in the concept of 'paying forward' to return the generosity others have shown toward us. Education, and the excitement of learning, is one of the most important things we can share."
"Our decision to support scholarships is driven by a strong belief in young people and a deep belief in the power of education and learning," Mr. Gates said.
In Ross County, the need to open the doors to a college education is especially compelling. In 2004, when the scholarship program was launched, the National Center for Education and U.S. Census Bureau statistics reported that while 83 percent of Ohioans hold a high school diploma and 21 percent a bachelor's degree, just 44 percent of Ross County residents have a high school diploma and 8 percent a bachelor's degree.
The scholarships are having their intended impact on young people's lives.
"The Gates Scholarship has allowed me to more fully experience the many aspects of college life," said Chillicothe High School graduate Jessica Ford, who is majoring in publication design as a junior at Ohio University's main campus in Athens. "I appreciate the Gateses' generosity and the fact that they continue to support the original recipients while helping new students each year. Attending college has been a wonderful experience that is going by too quickly."
Jeremy Grigsby, an Adena High School graduate, is studying marine biology as a junior at the College of Charleston (S.C.).
"The Gates Scholarship has defrayed the costs associated with out-of-state tuition, allowing me to pursue my dream career," Grisby said. "I have always wanted to be around the ocean, and the College of Charleston offered the opportunity I sought. Mr. and Mrs. Gates have both been very interested in how I am doing, and that means a lot. They care about the community and are very kind."
More information on The Gates Foundation - Ross County Scholar's Fund is available online at www.ohio.edu/gatesscholarship/.
Jack Jeffery is the director of media relations with Ohio University Chillicothe.