When students head to college, they often hear they will be making connections that will shape the rest of their lives. What is unique is when those connections turn into a tradition and, from that, a scholarship. That’s how the Kettering University African American Alumni Scholarship Endowment originated. The Scholarship is awarded to incoming and current African American students with financial need.
When William “Bill” Osborne Jr. ‘83 was a freshman, he met a senior named Sam Wells ’78, both African Americans. Wells took Osborne under his wing, showed him how things worked around campus, and offered him guidance. Once Osborne became comfortable at the University, he shared his experience by mentoring younger African American students, and then those students did the same.
Eventually, this act of paying it forward turned into the friendship of nine Kettering University graduates. Through the years, the group has stayed in touch and met for dinner with their spouses. Over two years ago, they gathered in Flint, where Wells lives, and visited Kettering for an updated tour of the campus. Witnessing the growth at their alma mater, they were impressed with the University’s commitment to continue evolving to meet student needs.
The enthusiasm inspired the alumni to re-engage with the University and its students. Osborne said, “We asked what we could do to help.” They started working with current African American students, offering career advice. Osborne was so impressed by one student Rhonda Clark ’16 that he wanted to recruit her for his company. The alumni group discovered the same satisfaction they did back when they were students helping younger students much like themselves, and they wanted to do more.
By combining their contacts, they identified 35 African American Kettering alumni who wanted to make a difference, and they formed the African American Alumni Network. Osborne set the example, and each member made a financial contribution, and what resulted is the Kettering University African American Alumni Scholarship Endowment. They immediately raised nearly $60,000, far exceeding their goal of $25,000 by 2022.
“The current students have been instrumental in bringing us together,” Osborne said. While providing financial assistance through scholarships is the mission of the Network, mentoring remains a top priority. The Network members want to pass on as much as possible to students and continue the chain started back in the 1970s.
One offer of help turned into a friendship, which grew into a tradition and developed into a program to help Kettering University students achieve success. This Network is a group of individuals who are positively influencing Kettering students and others in their lives. To honor Osborne’s mentoring and scholarship initiatives, the University is recognizing him with the 2019 Alumni Service Award.
The hope is that all who are touched by the African American Alumni Network and Scholarship Endowment will follow their mentors’ lead and continue the tradition of support. All contributions to the Endowment are welcome.
Alayna Reed ’23 is one of the first students to be awarded the Scholarship. “Being a first generation college student, I am truly thankful to be awarded this Scholarship to support my dream of becoming an electrical engineer,” she said. “This Scholarship for African American students at Kettering means so much, knowing there is someone looking out for me and making sure that I have what I need to get my degree. I am beyond grateful to have these wonderful alumni who can relate to me and my family when it comes down to expenses and choosing the right path for my education.”