A lasting legacy
Walter Scott’s foundation expands Scott Scholars Program
story by Anne Manning and Emily Wilmsen
photos by John Eisele
published Oct. 25, 2021
Throughout his decades of philanthropy to his alma mater, Walter Scott, Jr. spoke often of his dedication to helping some of Colorado State University’s best and brightest engineering students achieve their potential and change the world.
Scott died on Sept. 25, but his legacy lives on amongst the students whose lives he transformed.
Earlier this year – in what would prove to be one of his final acts with CSU – Scott chose to expand the existing Scott Scholars Program for Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering undergraduate students, committing through his foundation an additional $11.4 million toward the program over the next 10 years. The added support brought Scott’s total giving to the University to $64.2 million.
Starting this academic year, undergraduate Scott Scholars will receive up to $22,000 per year toward tuition, housing and meals, covering the lion’s share of students’ total annual expenses (CSU will contribute an additional $4,000). All current Scott Scholars will transition to the same level of award starting next academic year. For some of the scholars, the change will amount to an additional $16,000 per year toward their education.
Scott himself had planned to deliver this news to CSU’s current Scott Scholars, but he died shortly before the meeting. The scholars instead received the news during an emotional, bittersweet private event with Scott Foundation representatives that was held on campus on Oct. 12. Two of Scott’s children, Amy and David Scott, attended the event to personally tell the students – to their shock and surprise – about the additional scholarship funds their father had authorized.
On Oct. 12, Scott Scholars were surprised with the news that their existing scholarships had increased. Kennedy Solheim called home that night to relay the news. Video by Brian Buss.
Scott Scholar Hayley Stern held back tears when she learned her scholarship support would more than double next year. The first-year chemical and biomedical engineering student from Englewood said she had “no thoughts, just emotion.”
“I’m just really incredibly thankful for this opportunity both to the Scott Foundation and Walter Scott and his family. Right after this, I’m going to go call my parents, and I’m going to call my grandparents on the East Coast and my grandmother in South Africa when it gets a bit later.”
Emma Schmit, a first-year environmental engineering student from Highlands Ranch, also thought of her family when she was told of her scholarship increase.
“I’m so thankful. A lot of why I went into engineering is not only because I care about it, but because I want to support my family. My mom is a single mom, and she’s the one who’s mostly supporting me through this,” Schmit said. “I want to help people, just like Walter Scott. That’s why I relate to him a lot. That’s why I’m doing environmental engineering – I want to focus on water and clean energy and helping people that don’t have those resources.”
Ethan Debelak calling his family after learning of the Scott Scholars Program additional support.
CSU President Joyce McConnell, who attended the Oct. 12 event, said, “While we are still grieving the loss of our friend Walter Scott, we are proud to say that his legacy will live on through the students, present and future, whose lives he chose to change. We are inspired by Walter’s exemplary vision for bettering others’ lives.”
Funding for more scholars
The infusion of funding will also mean that more students will enroll in the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering as Scott Scholars, inviting in 25 new scholars per first-year class, compared with 20 in previous years. CSU will now support up to 110 Scott Scholars per year, up from 80 in previous years. The Scott Foundation also provides fellowships for graduate students, and that support remains unchanged.
Scott Scholars are among the college’s highest-achieving students, showing exceptional academic and career promise. Among the pillars of the Scott Scholars program are research experiences, internships, giving back to the community, developing leadership skills, and connecting with industry leaders and faculty.
“Walter Scott often expressed his belief that investing in young people’s education is the best thing we can do as a society,” said Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering Dean David McLean. “Our newly updated fund agreement with the Suzanne and Walter Scott Foundation shows just how much Walter meant what he said. We’re grateful for the chance to continue partnering with the Scott Foundation, and to continue honoring Walter’s memory, by offering a world-class engineering education to deserving and talented students who, without Walter’s support, might have been unable to access that education.”
Amy Scott, daughter of Walter Scott, Jr., spent time with the Scott Scholars at the Oct. 12 reception.
A 1953 civil engineering alumnus, Scott spent almost his entire career at contracting firm Peter Kiewit Sons’ Inc., where he was elected president in 1979. In 2016, CSU named its engineering college the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering in recognition of his record-breaking historical giving to the University.
He first began supporting student scholarships in 1983, and his giving over the years – including the establishment of the Scott Scholars Program in 2017 – benefitted hundreds of students.
Scott and his late wife, Suzanne, also provided the $12 million naming gift for the Scott Bioengineering Building, which was completed in 2015 and houses state-of-the-art laboratories, classrooms and equipment.
In addition to the increased scholarship awards, the Scott Foundation also committed new funding toward enrichment programs for Scott Scholars of $8,000 per student over their time at CSU. The funds provide program-directed and individual student-selected experiences, including study abroad opportunities, and ways “to enhance and extend learning in professional and research settings beyond the classroom.”
In addition to direct scholarship funding, the Scott Foundation will provide $5 million over the next 10 years toward high-impact research areas, to be identified by the college. The foundation stipulated that funded research programs should include opportunities for Scott Scholars to contribute.
“Over the last decade, Walter Scott, Jr. transformed his alma mater,” said Vice President for University Advancement Kim Tobin. “He was incredibly generous, but even more impactful was his unwavering belief in the potential of CSU students. This gift creates unprecedented opportunity for that potential to be realized, and we are abundantly grateful for Walter’s commitment that ensures our ability to fulfill his expectation to ‘do great things.’”