The Gift of Scholarship Can Leave a Lasting Impact

Chris Calmer

Special to the Philanthropy Journal

by Chris Calmer, UMB Bank

The season of giving is upon us and as you start to think of how you can be charitable this year, consider the gift of scholarship. It’s a different way of giving back and can leave a legacy for years to come. For me, this time of year is when I think back to a gift that changed my life forever.

During my senior year of high school, I was awarded a scholarship that dramatically changed the course of my life. And to this day, I still feel an overwhelming sense of thanks. I was extremely fortunate to receive funds that helped me pursue my college dreams and achieve my academic goals. This remarkable act of kindness helped me succeed professionally and become the person I am today. 

Helping a deserving student achieve their dreams is one of the best gifts you can give, and there are several available options. I encourage people to consider the unique gift of scholarship for their year-end contribution, because of the long-term, profound impact it can make.

Creating a legacy

When I was in high school, a close friend of mine was in a car accident that took her life. We were very close and participated in many of the same activities. We went to the same church and were both lifeguards at our municipal pool. Her passing deeply affected everyone in my high school. She was a talented and intelligent young woman with so much life ahead of her. 

Following her passing, her family decided to do something that would pay tribute to her and help others in the future. They created a scholarship in her name, and I was honored to be the first recipient of that scholarship. I will never forget what her family did for me and my future, and this is why I believe it is so important to give back in return.

If you decide to create a scholarship for a loved one, this is an opportunity to be extremely thoughtful in the design and qualifications of the scholarship. You can shape the scholarship fund to reflect your interests, values and priorities. You can also choose to fund one already in existence that holds personal meaning.

Paying it forward

As the cost of higher education continues to rise, so does the amount of debt that students take with them after graduation. According to the Princeton Review, this year 64% of students surveyed said financial aid, such as grant, scholarships or loans, are extremely necessary for them to attend school. And 42% said their biggest concern was debt. Scholarships play more of a critical role than ever and can make the difference between a student being able to attend college or not.

Anyone who has received a scholarship knows the tremendous amount of stress it can eliminate. It also creates a unique opportunity to be able to “pay it forward” later in life. Along with creating your own scholarship, you can also contribute to another fund already in place, or to the one you received. Many scholarship funds are managed in perpetuity, so there is opportunity for past recipients to give to the fund to see it benefit the next individual – an especially personal giving opportunity. It can also have a significant and meaningful impact on the family who establishes the fund.

Any donation counts

Scholarships make a real difference in the lives of hardworking students. They can help lessen the financial strain of school and help students concentrate on the most important thing: learning. Small donations can add up to make a real difference and any gift, regardless of how big or small, can have an impact and inspire others to donate in the future. 

I encourage everyone to consider the impact that a scholarship fund could make in the life of a student. Scholarship funding is truly a gift that keeps on giving for years to come.  


Chris Calmer is a senior vice president and team leader for the institutional asset management group at UMB Bank. In this role, Chris is responsible for all aspects of portfolio construction including asset allocation, security selection and mutual fund analysis for institutional clients.

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