General Scholarship Funds Vital to Students in Times of Need

With emergency scholarship funding, Sam Smith was able to achieve her degree

General Scholarship Fund

Sam Smith is one of Oklahoma State’s newest alumni. But that wouldn’t be the case without the General Scholarship Fund, which provides emergency support for students experiencing major life events that threaten to derail their academic careers.

The Fayetteville, North Carolina, native was three weeks into her first semester at OSU when she got the call that her father had died unexpectedly at 53.

Mike Smith left behind three daughters, a wife who had always been a homemaker, and no will. Sam used up her college savings to pay for the funeral, and now faced a massive out-of-state tuition bill.

She worked at The Rancher’s Club, Buffalo Wild Wings and was a personal trainer on the side, but she couldn’t earn enough to pay off her bursar bill and enroll for the next semester.

Sam and Mike Smith

She applied for every scholarship she could find, but her out-of-state status, combined with a lack non-work activities, left her unqualified for many.

"I hope they can see that I was able to make my father proud because of their help."

She wound up in the office of Chad Blew, OSU’s director of scholarships and financial aid. When she explained her situation, he used emergency funding from the General Scholarship Fund to pay her bill.

The General Scholarship Fund is one of the most commonly supported funds at Oklahoma State University by private donors. Nearly 9,000 gifts have been made in the past three years, most of which have been $100 or less.

The fund is unrestricted, which allows Blew and his staff to help students who experience dire situations. Blew said for many, the emergency funding is what keeps students at OSU and on the path toward achieving a degree.

Sam Smith

Sam Smith, 2016 OSU Alumna and emergency scholarship recipient

Sam said the experience helped her overcome the devastation of losing her father. Blew followed up with her regularly, checking on her welfare and making sure she wasn’t being overwhelmed by the grief. He would ask whether she was eating.

Before receiving the emergency scholarship, Sam couldn’t see any hope of staying at OSU.

Seeing that kind of generosity made me work harder. It made me realize the importance of good grades, and the OSU Foundation and all of those donors were going out of their way to help me, so the least I could do was work my butt off. Sam Smith, Emergency Scholarship Recipient

Sam graduated with a university studies degree and is doing online courses to add a degree in health education and promotion and a minor in business. She recently moved to San Diego, where she accepted a job as a corporate recruiter for an IT staff firm.

She gets emotional when she talks about how grateful she is for OSU donors, and she wishes she could thank every single one of them in person.

"I hope they can see that I was able to make my father proud because of their help,” she says, her voice cracking with emotion.

If you are looking to make a year-end gift, consider the General Scholarship Fund. A gift of any size can help students like Sam, who are faced with extreme circumstances, keep their academic goals on track.