Advancing the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need

Foundation Makes Graduate Scholarship National, Opens Competition



May 1, 2002 (College Park, Maryland) Establishing the most generous individual scholarship in the nation, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation announced the names of the 50 college seniors who have been selected as recipients of the first Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Graduate Scholarships.

“We want to make a statement that now is the time to be investing in the next generation of leaders for our country and the world,” said Matthew J. Quinn, executive director of the Foundation. “We expect great things from these scholars as they go forward in life.” The class includes:

  • A nineteen-year-old NCAA Division I college diver
  • A fifty-one-year-old Vietnam veteran who put his wife and 2 children through college before going back to school to begin his second career as a writer.
  • A disabled former professional country singer who hails from rural Virginia
  • A 33 year-old mother who worked for nine years as a secretary before going back to school
  • A Naval Academy Midshipman who will train as a fighter pilot after graduate school
  • A Hollins University dancer who organized a university wide symposium in the immediate aftermath of September 11
  • A former “Maryland Teenager of the Year,” now a Princeton University basketball and track star, who wants to become a journalist like her deceased father
  • A world-class violinist who organized a thirty-member student Chamber Ensemble at the University of Maryland.

The late Jack Kent Cooke, who was unable to go to college in the midst of the Depression, set aside the bulk of his estate to create a foundation dedicated to education. 
The foundation is setting aside approximately $10 million over the course of the next six years to support this first class of 50 Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholars.

“We chose individuals with exceptional academic promise,” said Dr. Quinn, “but great intellectual ability was only one of our criteria. We chose students who had a special spark, who have overcome real adversity and who have a real commitment to giving back to society.”

Among the scholars chosen are two identical twins, Fasika and Tinsay Woreta from the University of Maryland, whose parents immigrated to the United States from Ethiopia. Both twins majored in biochemistry, graduated Phi Beta Kappa, and will begin medical school at Johns Hopkins University.

The selection of six of our graduates as Jack Kent Cooke Scholars is a wonderful tribute to our pursuit of academic excellence,” said University of Maryland President C.D. Mote. “These awards will enable all of these students to focus their attention entirely on their graduate education. I know that all of us appreciate the generosity of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, and I am sure that the students will recognize opportunities in their future to give back generously as well.”

The fifty Scholars were selected from a total of 675 applicants. To be eligible for this year’s scholarship, a college senior had to be a resident of, be attending a college or university in, or plan to attend a graduate school in the greater Washington region (Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia). A group of twelve academic advisors from across the country assisted the Foundation in the selection process.

Eight Scholars selected are undergraduate students at Johns Hopkins University; six are currently attending the University of Maryland, College Park; and six will be graduating from the University of Virginia. The Scholars attend 30 different institutions of higher learning, large and small, from Georgetown University to Frostburg State University.

A total of twenty-one students are attending college in Maryland, fourteen attend a college or university in Virginia, and six are graduating from schools in the District of Columbia. The remaining nine students are attending colleges and universities across the United States including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, and the University of Chicago.

Eighteen of the scholars are residents of Maryland, seventeen are residents of Virginia and one scholar is a resident of the District of Columbia. One Jack Kent Cooke Scholar is a Canadian and one is Australian. Thirty of the scholars are female and 20 are male.

The graduate scholars will go on to study in a wide range of fields including physics, filmmaking, social work, journalism, dance, economics, art history, law, conflict resolution, philosophy, and Middle East studies. Many of the Scholars will be attending medical school. 

“We looked for individuals of exceptional promise, strivers really,” said Dr. Quinn, “and many of these scholars are first-generation Americans, children of immigrants who have the opportunity to live and expand the American Dream.”

The first class of Jack Kent Cooke Scholars reflects a wide range of racial and ethnic backgrounds. Some of the countries represented include China, Ethiopia, India, Ireland, and the Philippines.

Many of the Scholars also have a strong international outlook.

  • Roger Skipper has led volunteer teams down to Bolivia for a decade to help build classrooms and dormitories.
  • Sara Hobeika worked for two years as a student volunteer helping five Afghan women resettle in America after fleeing the Taliban.
  • Rachel Breman spent two years in Niger as a Peace Corps volunteer.
  • Tinsay Woreta, the daughter of an Ethiopian doctor and a nurse, plans to return to Ethiopia as a doctor to provide medical help.
  • Danna Weiss has worked at the Carter Center –Conflict Resolution Program on the Sudan civil war and traveled to Jerusalem to interview Jewish women scholars.

The Foundation’s commitment to providing these scholarships for a new generation of leaders comes at a critical time. More Americans are going to college than ever before – 15 million – even though the cost of going to college has continued to rise in the last decade. Approximately 2.8 million of these college graduates go on to graduate school. However, the number of college students going on to graduate school has declined since 1996, according to a latest report issued by the Council of Graduate Schools.

Cost is a factor. Over the last decade, the burden of financing a college education has shifted away from the government (federal and state) to students and their families, forcing an increasing number of students to take out loans. Many university students who go on to graduate school are entering the workforce deeply in debt.

According to a 1998 report by the U.S. Department of Education, the average amount borrowed for graduate and first-professional degrees was $20,000 for master’s degree students, $21,700 for doctoral degree students, and $51,000 for first-professional students. According to the same report, 75 percent of all medical and law students borrowed to finance their education. On average, law students borrowed $47,400 and medical students borrowed $55,900.

President Mote continued, “The Foundation is filling a growing gap in the Greater Washington region when it comes to supporting higher education. State governments in our region and around the country are hard pressed to support higher education at this time. The Foundation’s generosity is a wonderful statement of support at a time when we need it.”

Greater Washington leads the nation in the granting of masters’ degrees in engineering and computer sciences and in the awarding of doctoral degrees in the health professions. In 2000, 42 percent of the region’s adults 25 and older held a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with the national rate of 25.6 percent. The greater Washington region is second only to the San Jose metropolitan area for the number of adults with bachelors’ or higher degrees in 2000.

On Thursday, May 2, Virginia Governor Mark Warner and Secretary of Education Belle Wheelan will join the Virginia Jack Kent Cooke Scholars at a reception beginning at 12:30 pm in the Old Senate Chamber in the Statehouse in Richmond, Virginia.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is receiving more than $500 million in assets from Mr. Cooke’s estate and expects to provide approximately $25 million to support individual scholarships on an annual basis.

The Foundation plans to support students of exceptional promise at several levels of education – high school, undergraduate and graduate. The Foundation began operations in August 2000 with Dr. Quinn as founding executive director.

Jack Kent Cooke, who built a media empire and also owned the Los Angeles Lakers and Washington Redskins, died in April 1997.






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