July 24, 1998
KALAMAZOO -- Five Kalamazoo churches and several individuals have pledged to donate $90,000 in a joint effort that will help undergraduate students attend Western Michigan University.
The money will be designated by the WMU Foundation to create five endowed scholarship funds in the name of the participating churches. Earnings from the endowments will allow each of the churches to award at least one scholarship per year. To be eligible, either the applicants or their parents must attend and be members of the church sponsoring the scholarship.
Dr. Donald E. Thompson, vice president for research at WMU, said President Diether H. Haenicke and other University administrators have been working with the churches to coordinate the scholarship project.
"The project stems from meetings we had with ministers of several predominately African-American churches in Kalamazoo a couple of years ago," Thompson said. "During the course of our conversations, several pastors expressed interest in developing scholarship arrangements between WMU and their churches."
Thompson said all of the churches already were involved in supporting education activity in some way, but now they will be extending their efforts to higher education.
"The church is a pillar in the life of the black community," Thompson said. "I'm delighted to see not only churches but individuals step forward with this kind of support for education."
The churches participating in the scholarship project are the Tabernacle Church of God in Christ, Galilee Missionary Baptist Church, Christian Life Center, Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church and Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Several individuals also have pledged to support the endowed scholarship funds being created by the churches. These donors are: Arthur and Janice James, Theresa Powell, Nathan and Debra Smith, Donald Thompson and Kathleen Wilson, Charles and Martha Warfield, Charles and Lita Wembly, and Sidney and Carolyn Williams.
The scholarships that will be generated by the five endowment funds will be awarded through each church's scholarship committee in conjunction with WMU's Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships. They may be used for tuition, fees, books and on-campus room and board expenses.
Applicants must have been admitted to WMU and maintain an appropriate grade point average. Those with financial need will be given preference. The scholarships may be renewable for up to a maximum of four consecutive academic years, as long as the student reapplies and either maintains a 2.5 grade point average or is making satisfactory progress toward a degree.
Thompson said it is hoped that the project will gain momentum and additional churches and individuals will participate.
"Helping young people obtain a college education is something that more of us should be involved with," he said. "Given the complexity and competitiveness of our world today, education isn't a luxury. Investing in students really is investing in our future."
Anyone wishing to contribute to one of the pending scholarship funds may do so by contacting the participating church of their choice or Bud Bender, WMU assistant vice president for external affairs, at (616) 387-8785. Donations also may be made directly to the WMU Foundation by calling (616) 387-8700.
Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 616 387-8400, firstname.lastname@example.org
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