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$23 million boost to the Walter Scott, Jr. scholarship program at university
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$23 million boost to the Walter Scott, Jr. scholarship program at university

Walter Scott, Jr. believed the most important thing a society could do was to invest in the next generation. He also was deeply committed to his hometown of Omaha. To carry on his legacy, the Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation has committed more than $23 million to the Walter Scott, Jr. Scholarship Program (Scott Scholars).

The generous gift will sustain and grow the prestigious program at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where it was first established by the late Omaha philanthropist in 1997. The gift also will support the expansion of the Scott Scholars Program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, where an inaugural class of 12 Scott Scholars began their first year of medical school in the fall of 2023.

At UNO, a $20 million pledge will allow more students to enroll in the highly competitive Scott Scholars Program, expanding capacity from a total of 128 students to 168 students. A $3 million pledge will support the program’s expansion at UNMC.

“We are pleased to expand our investment in students through the Scott Scholars Program,” said Calvin Sisson, president and CEO of the Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation. “The enhanced program aligns perfectly with our mission to support Mr. Scott’s vision and interests by investing in education, developing leaders and advancing communities. Walter cared deeply about investing in Nebraska’s best and brightest students, not because they deserve it, but because they have the greatest potential to give back.”

The gifts from the Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation were made through the University of Nebraska Foundation as part of Only in Nebraska: A Campaign for Our University’s Future. The campaign is a historic effort to engage at least 150,000 benefactors to give $3 billion to support University of Nebraska students, faculty, academic and clinical programs and research to address the needs of the state. Scholarships are a top priority of the campaign with a particular focus on critical areas of need including health care, engineering and information technology.

Walter Scott’s vision in establishing the Scott Scholars Program was to challenge high-achieving STEM students from Nebraska to develop their technical skills. Initially limited to engineering and information technology, the Scott Scholars Program was broadened in 2017 to include all the STEM disciplines and add a new focus on leadership development.

UNO Scott Scholars reside together in a living-learning community in the Scott Residence Hall and neighboring Scott Village.

Accepted students, who must be Nebraska residents and have a high school GPA of 3.5 or greater and an ACT score of 30 or greater, receive the Regents Scholarship through UNO to cover tuition. The Scott Scholars Program covers all other costs, including books, a laptop, room and board and funding for professional development opportunities.

The $20 million commitment from the Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation will support the Scott Scholars Program for the next five years, through the 2028-29 academic year. The gift also expands the program from a class size of 32 students to 42 students a year.

Since it began, an estimated 600 Scott Scholars have graduated, with more than 80% choosing to stay in Nebraska after graduation to pursue their careers. The average annual salary for 2023 graduating Scott Scholars was $78,000.

Harnoor Dhaliwal, Ph.D., associate executive director of the Scott Scholars Program, said the connections students build in the community are key to retaining them in Nebraska after graduation. Scholars not only participate in internships at local companies, professional development conferences and research opportunities; they also partner with local organizations to solve technical problems.

Selected students can choose from among numerous STEM-based academic programs, including engineering, computer science, IT innovation, math and economics, as well as multiple pre-health degrees. Half the students in the most recent class expressed an interest in health sciences, which was an impetus for the expansion of the Scott Scholars Program to UNMC.

The Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation established the Scott Scholars Program in the UNMC College of Medicine to prepare high-achieving students to serve as health care professionals. The program is designed to leverage students’ growing health sciences expertise to solve health-related challenges in the community and in clinical settings, as well as in critically important life sciences research.

In the fall of 2023, an inaugural class of students enrolled in the Scott Scholars Program in the UNMC College of Medicine after the Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation made a pledge of more than $1.7 million to launch the pilot program. The foundation subsequently increased its commitment to more than $3 million, supporting a second 12-member cohort for the fall of 2024. Foundation leaders have expressed an interest in expanding the UNMC program to other health sciences academic colleges in the future.

UNMC provides in-state tuition, and the Scott Scholars Program covers room and board and a stipend to fund professional and research opportunities for four years for UNMC medical students. Scholars live together in a living-learning community within an apartment complex near the UNMC campus. Students participate in unique experiential learning opportunities at UNMC and across the nation.

The UNMC Scott Scholars Program is open to students from around the country. Three medical students currently in the UNMC inaugural class graduated from the UNO Scott Scholars Program. It’s also anticipated that students graduating with pre-health bachelor’s degrees from the four other Scott Scholars Programs across the country will become future UNMC Scott Scholars.

The Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation was founded in 1990 by Walter Scott, Jr. and his wife, Suzanne. The couple were passionate champions for numerous causes and projects that improved the quality of life in Walter’s birthplace of Omaha.

“Walter Scott’s visionary generosity established the Scott Scholars Program, a gold standard in nurturing exceptional talents with intention and care. A dynamic community is propelling top achieving students toward shaping Nebraska’s future. Beyond academics, it fosters camaraderie, a sense of belonging and uncompromised service to the community. UNO extends heartfelt gratitude to the Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation, Calvin Sisson, Laura Miller and their team for their steadfast support and continued investment in the best and the brightest within our student body.” -stated Joanne Li, Ph.D., UNO Chancellor.

Photo: Walter and Susanne Scott

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