As the first person in his family to have gone to college, billionaire David Walentas wants to help other first-generation college students at his alma mater the University of Virginia. To do that, a press release from the university announces he and his wife Jane are pledging a donation of $100 million to the school.
Part of that sum will go towards establishing a new scholarship program directed towards "the most talented first-generation students" and attracting them to the school. Jimmy Wright, president of the Jefferson Scholars Foundation, says the gift will be a long and lasting step towards those goals:
"This gift will have a profound and lasting impact on first-generation college students…We look forward to establishing the preeminent scholarship program in the nation for first-generation students and bringing an exceptional group of smart, resilient and industrious Walentas Scholars to the University of Virginia."
$50 million of the Walentas's gift will go towards scholarships for first-generation students from Virginia, Walentas's own hometown of Rochester, New York, and New York City where he currently lives. Another $25 million will go towards scholarships and fellowships for first-generation college graduates looking to attend the Darden School of Business. The rest, says Walentas, will go towards various other scholarships and fellowships, and the bulk of the money will be paid out over the next five to ten years. UVA President Jim Ryan says it's all part of a larger plan:
"I cannot imagine a better way to honor the future than by making a significant and lasting commitment to first-generation college students…This gift from David Walentas will serve as a cornerstone of the $5 billion campaign we are launching this weekend and will have an enduring impact on the University of Virginia and on those who attend it."
Walentas himself spoke on his pledge as well:
"Growing up, I didn't know anyone who had been to college, but I knew that it was a way out of poverty and a path to opportunity…Thanks to a scholarship, I was the first in my family to attend college, and my time at UVA completely changed my life. There are so many talented young people in this country – in places like New York City and Rochester, where I grew up – who can help make our society a better place if given the opportunity. I can't wait to see how these first-generation college students change the world."
Surprisingly, the Walentas pledge is actually not the largest contribution UVA has gotten this year. That honor goes to the $120 million recently pledged by hedge fund CEO Jaffray Woodriff to start a data science school at the university.