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Gates Foundation-Ross County Scholar's Fund Reaches Milestone
Ohio Ag Connection - 06/11/2019

What began as a vision has become a reality that has been realized more than 200 times.

Chillicothe natives Larry Gates and his wife, Mary, lived throughout the world before returning to their hometown in retirement. While gaining a worldwide view, they never lost their perspective. Realizing the value of a college education in opening the doors of opportunity for young people, in 2004, they established the Gates Foundation-Ross County Scholar's Fund.

Since the awarding of the first scholarships, more than 200 grants have been given to deserving Ross County students, and the 2019 recipients mark the 16th class of scholars to utilize the grants to pursue their college ambitions.

The scholarships are intended to help offset the cost of an undergraduate college education not covered by financial aid and/or scholarships.

This year, the Foundation awarded 14 scholarships, including eight continuing students and six students who will begin their college journeys this fall.

Through this scholarship fund, Mary and Larry Gates have put in practice the value of "paying it forward."

"We are both blessed to have grown up in this community, and the values we learned here, such as perseverance, friendship and working together toward the common good, have stayed with us throughout our lifetimes," Gates said. "We wanted to help current and future Ross County residents have the opportunity to pursue their dreams, and a college education is the best gift an individual can receive in that regard."

The endeavor has been a labor of love for the scholarship fund's founders.

"Some of the joys of this undertaking have been the wonderful people we have met, especially the scholarship recipients and their families," the couple said. "To see these young people go forward, have rewarding academic careers and then professional careers is tremendously awarding. People ask if we would do it again, and the answer is unequivocally yes."

The true testament to the impact of the scholarship fund is the recipients themselves.

"The opportunities the scholarship offered are phenomenal," said Kara (Bobo) Stump, a Gates Foundation scholar from 2004 to 2008 and graduate of Southeastern High School. "I did not have to work full-time while in college, thereby being able to pursue activities to prepare me for a career, and I was then able to graduate without the burden of debt. Beyond that, I value the friendship I have with Mr. and Mrs. Gates. I still talk with them regularly, and they always ask about how my children are doing. They truly care about me, and that means so much."

Stump, who graduated from Shawnee State University, is currently assistant director of alumni and community engagement at Shawnee State.

Sisters Lindsay (Donahue) Grigsby and Lisa (Donahue) Holthus, who both graduated from Paint Valley High School, were Gates Foundation Scholarship recipients, with Lindsay beginning college in 2004 and Lisa in 2006.

"Growing up in a house with a single mom and three sisters, things were not always easy," said Grigsby, who earned a bachelor's degree in accounting from Miami (Ohio) University. "I was always encouraged to attend college, but the amount of debt it would involve seemed overwhelming. Thanks to the Gates Foundation Scholarship, the cost of college did not overshadow the opportunities for learning and growth."

Upon graduation from college, Grigsby worked for Ernst and Young and then Abbott Laboratories. She and her family have since relocated to Ross County, and she operates a tax and bookkeeping business while raising four young children.

"The Gates Foundation Scholarship played a huge part in allowing me to make the difficult decision to stay at home with my kids while they are young. If I had a large amount of college debt, this would not have been an option," Grigsby said.

Her sister, Lisa Holthus, earned a doctor of pharmacy degree from the University of Cincinnati and is employed at Walgreens in West Chester, Ohio.

"The Gates Foundation Scholarship meant more than the significant financial assistance. It meant that someone from my community noticed me and believed in my ability to further my education," Holthus said. "I struggled my first semester, adapting to a big city and surrounded by students who had access to advanced placement classes in high school which I did not have. I knew that having the support of people like Mr. and Mrs. Gates, I could overcome that small-town stigma and achieve anything I set my mind to."

"Mary Gates would regularly approach my mom and check on how my sister and I were doing. It was reassuring to know how much we mattered to Mr. and Mrs. Gates."

The 2019 Ross County Scholars include:

- Lauren Finney, Chillicothe High School, attending Miami University

- Kiana Fitzpatrick, Chillicothe High School, attending Bowling Green State University

- David Hirsch, Chillicothe High School, attending University of Cincinnati

- Meghann Leedy, Southeastern High School, attending Ohio University

- Sarah Massie, Zane Trace High School, attending Ohio State University

- Chris Postage, Chillicothe High School, attending Xavier University

This year's renewed recipients include:

- Justin Dye, Ohio University

- Justin Fink, Ohio University

- Autumn Mohan, Ohio University

- Joshua Parker, Ohio University

- Darby Pillow, Moorehead State University

- Jeffery Postage, Ohio University

- Ann Shelby, Ohio University

- Sydney Tackett, Ohio University

Gates Foundation Directors include Nicole McLaughlin, Michelle Shanholtzer, Matthew Haller, Kimberly Hirsch, Nancy Harris, Jack Jeffery and Valerie Miller.

Gates is a retired executive and has been active in the Chillicothe community and with Ohio University. He has served as chairman of the Regional Coordinating Council at Ohio University Chillicothe and served on the board of directors for The Ohio University Foundation in Athens. Additionally, he worked to develop the concept for the Entrepreneur Center at the Chillicothe Campus and served as fundraising chairman for the Ohio University Chillicothe Child Development Center.

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