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Foundation News

‘Higher Education is Truly a Great Equalizer’

Annexstad Foundation Program Administrator Visits Scholars
Elin Wahman (front row, right), program administrator for the Annexstad Family Foundation, visited with UM Annexstad Scholars this fall to meet the freshmen scholars and hear from the upperclassmen about their progress, achievements and challenges. Pictured are (front row, left to right) Annexstad Scholar Cisco Santos of Southaven, Mississippi; Katie Morrison, UM development officer; Gloma Milner of Boaz, Alabama; and Wahman; (second row, left to right) John Samonds, associate dean of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College; Laurel Lee of Madison, Mississippi; and Tan Le of Gulfport, Mississippi; (back row, left to right) Rotavious Taper of Clarksdale, Mississippi, and David Pfaehler of Independence, Kentucky.
Elin Wahman (front row, right), program administrator for the Annexstad Family Foundation, visited with UM Annexstad Scholars this fall to meet the freshmen scholars and hear from the upperclassmen about their progress, achievements and challenges. Pictured are (front row, left to right) Annexstad Scholar Cisco Santos of Southaven, Mississippi; Katie Morrison, UM development officer; Gloma Milner of Boaz, Alabama; and Wahman; (second row, left to right) John Samonds, associate dean of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College; Laurel Lee of Madison, Mississippi; and Tan Le of Gulfport, Mississippi; (back row, left to right) Rotavious Taper of Clarksdale, Mississippi, and David Pfaehler of Independence, Kentucky.

Al and Cathy Annexstad, founders of the Annexstad Family Foundation, have long held an impassioned belief that exceptionally bright young people who have little or no means to go to college, and who have endured extraordinary hardship in their young lives, have great potential to one day become leaders in their chosen fields.

Students of high moral character, grit and intelligence are chosen to receive renewable scholarships with an objective of earning an undergraduate degree in four years. Leaders for Tomorrow scholars earn their undergraduate degrees as free from debt as possible.

Losing parents to untimely deaths in their youth, both Annexstads experienced the power of mentoring as their communities and families rallied around them in their formative years. The Annexstads’ deep, personal appreciation of how caring adults and an opportunity for higher education can influence a young person who has been impacted by hardship has led to over 750 scholarships being awarded across the nation since 2000.

“The University of Mississippi’s rich academic excellence and history of producing leaders in many fields is not only important for the state of Mississippi, but will ultimately produce future leaders for America,” Annexstad said. “Higher education is truly a great equalizer in life. It allows us as a nation to tap into a vast resource of desperately needed human capital. Equipping these talented scholars with world-class educations represents a significant investment in our nation’s future as they go on to make meaningful contributions to society.”

To date, the Annexstad Family Foundation has awarded 669 scholarships to students at 65 colleges and universities across the country, enabling 245 scholars to graduate. Additionally, 92 percent of Annexstad scholars graduate in four years.

University of Mississippi Foundation President Wendell Weakley said the Annexstads decided to award scholarships to UM students after accompanying their granddaughter on a campus visit.

“About a week after their visit, we got a call from the Annexstad Foundation saying they were interested in establishing a scholarship here,” Weakley said. “Al is truly the ideal philanthropist. He loves to give back when he knows it will make a difference.”

“Unfortunately, in America today far too many kids will not reach their God-given potential as contributing members of our society,” adds Tom Annexstad, Vice President and Director of Development. “While this is costly to them personally, it is likewise detrimental to our nation. The Annexstad Family Foundation is deeply committed to the notion that out of the ranks of exceptionally bright young people who have overcome immense hardship in life can emerge future leaders of America. Those young leaders begin to fully develop when they are given the opportunity for higher education.”

Indeed, the Annexstad Family Foundation is well on its way toward achieving Al and Cathy Annexstad’s goal of sending 1,000 young people to college. Most notably, the Annexstad Family Foundation proudly points to a nearly 90 percent graduation rate among scholarship recipients, an extraordinary achievement considering that the majority of Annexstad Scholars are first-generation college students.

Today, Annexstad graduates are successfully pursuing careers in medicine, business, science, engineering, law and other critical fields.

To support scholarships at the University of Mississippi, click here.

By Bill Dabney