Lawrence Scholarship Drive Raises Nearly $50,000

Courtesy of University Communications

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Nearly $50,000 was brought in as part of a special fundraising event on Tuesday, Oct. 27, to endow a scholarship fund for deserving students associated with the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The event honored Mike Lawrence, a veteran newsman, former press secretary to Gov. Jim Edgar and a noted political analyst who joined the institute in 1997 as associate director, and became director in 2004 following the death of founder and former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon.

“Our ability to raise this amount of money for scholarships for our students is a tribute to how people feel about Mike Lawrence and his lifetime commitment to excellence, good public policy, and to making a positive difference in the lives of others, especially young people,” said institute Director David Yepsen.

“Thanks to the generosity of so many friends and admirers of Mike, this fund will allow us to award at least one scholarship each year to a deserving student who shows promise as an engaged citizen.”

Yepsen announced at the event another way donors and admirers could be a part of the scholarship — by writing to the institute a note of how Lawrence influenced their lives that can be shared with the scholarship recipients each year.

“Some donors wrote personal notes sharing their feelings about Mike and his influence in their lives,” said Yepsen. “Because that has made such an impact on me and others at the institute, I’m asking for all donors and friends to contribute their story of how Mike influenced them, whether they are a former student, a co-worker or an admirer of his work at the institute, in journalism or in government. Each year when we award the scholarship to a student, we will also hand them a copy of those stories so they can better know Mike Lawrence.”

Lead gifts of $5,000 each were received from former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar and his wife Brenda; SIU alumnus and institute board member Jerome Mileur; interim SIUC Provost Don Rice and his wife Pru, who is associate vice chancellor for research and administration at the University; and Lawrence and his wife Marianne.

Lawrence is pleased the beneficiaries are students involved with the institute and its Student Ambassadors program, which helps host speakers and publicize events. In return for their volunteer service, the institute tries to provide students with direct access to the guest speakers, and events that offer insight into internships and how public policy is made.

“I’m proud of the commitment to diversity, equal opportunity and helping young people of all races realize their potential — that is the core of our institute’s mission,” said Lawrence.

Donations to the scholarship fund are still being sought and received, according to institute associate director Matt Baughman.

“Our initial goal was to raise $50,000 for the scholarship fund,” said Baughman. “Although that figure is within reach, we will continue to seek donations to build the scholarship fund in order to assist as many students as we can in Mike’s name.”

Scholarship guidelines state that the recipients can be either graduate or undergraduate students who are involved in a substantial number of institute programs, initiatives and other institute-related volunteer opportunities and who have demonstrated positive leadership qualities. Other factors, such as service to other parts of campus or community, special challenges overcome by the students or financial need may be considered. There is a preference that the students are active in the institute’s Student Ambassador Program and that at least one scholarship is awarded each year to an African American student.