TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — More than 1,000 donors participated in a Florida business executive’s challenge to support University of Alabama business students, generating more than $3.6 million for young UA scholars within three months.
Hugh Culverhouse Jr., of Coral Gables, Florida, committed during the last quarter of 2015 that he would match, up to $1 million, all donations made to UA’s Culverhouse College of Commerce before the end of 2015. By the end of the calendar year, Hugh Culverhouse and his wife, Eliza, had doubled their original offer.
“Hugh and Eliza Culverhouse not only honored their original commitment, they also provided an additional $1 million in student scholarship support,” said UA President Stuart R. Bell.
“They are passionate about helping young people and supporting The University of Alabama,” Bell said. “We thank them for their generosity and creativity in challenging others and also share our gratitude with the more than 1,000 supporters of the Culverhouse College of Commerce who responded to the challenge by giving $1.6 million in 90 days.”
In 2013, the couple established the Eliza and Hugh F. Culverhouse Student Assistance Scholarship Fund. Through this endowment, a number of students are selected as Culverhouse Scholars and are awarded scholarship support. During the challenge window, outright gifts to the College, including initial payments on new pledges made for any purpose, were matched by the Culverhouses into their scholarship fund.
In all, more than $3,606,400 was generated, including the $2 million from the Culverhouses.
Dr. Sharon Beatty, a UA faculty member, is among the 1,015 donors who participated in the challenge. Beatty, who has coordinated the College’s marketing doctoral program for 27 years, had planned to establish a scholarship fund for the program’s doctoral students when she learned of the challenge.
“It reinforced the incentive to get the contribution in this year,” Beatty said. “I saw that it had a multiplier effect. It is thrilling that Mr. Culverhouse is on board and helping our undergraduate students.”
Beatty plans to retire from UA in August following her 30-year career on campus.
“It is so exciting to see what our students can do relative to contributions to the betterment of society,” she said. “We are competing for Ph.D. students throughout the country. We need to be in positon to bring in the best students we can. We need to do everything we can to help them achieve.”
Ke’Shawn Toles, a 21-year-old Springville native, who is double-majoring in accounting and management, was selected in fall 2015 as a Culverhouse Scholar.
“I am amazed they would invest in an old country boy like me,” Toles said. “It has made a great difference. My grandparents are supporting me through school, and this scholarship is very helpful. It’s hard sometimes, but I believe God always makes a way. I believe He worked through the Culverhouses to make this happen.”
These scholars are commonly said to be members of the “Two Iron Society,” a reference that evolved from a conversation with Hugh Culverhouse. Thirteen current UA students are members of the Two Iron Society and, as such, receive scholarship support.
Another member of that group is Aaron Fenton. Fenton, a triple major from Belle Meade, New Jersey, says entering law school following his May graduation has become a recent goal.
“That is very much a result of Mr. Culverhouse,” Fenton said. “He was a prosecutor for a while, and, through his stories, I learned a bit more about what you do as a prosecutor, and I thought that would be an interesting path for me to take.”
Fenton, who majors in finance, economics and public relations, already has been accepted into law schools at The University of Alabama, the University of Chicago and Duke University. He’s awaiting word from Harvard, Stanford, Penn and the University of Virginia law schools.
“I think the scholarship money helped me to stay in school and, even more so, to be able to take all those classes to get the credits necessary to be a triple major. And, an even bigger part is the mentorship. When Mr. Culverhouse comes to town, I get to meet with him. He did what I want to do. He was a prosecutor, and he’s just a man that gives really good advice. And, maybe most importantly, he really cares about all the scholars and their successes.”
The matching gift challenge is one of several Culverhouse has offered as a way of motivating others to give to UA. With this latest round of gifts, Culverhouse’s total giving to the university now exceeds $6 million. His father, Hugh Culverhouse Sr., is the College’s namesake.
“Eliza and I are happy to have made this additional investment in our scholarship fund at the University and are pleased the matching gift challenge was so successful with more than 1,000 participants,” Hugh Culverhouse said.
“Many, if not most, of the Culverhouse Scholars are the first in their families to attend college, and when they graduate, they are getting very promising jobs or pursuing graduate degrees. We just want to help more UA students get the burden of debt off their backs and realize the potential of their future.”
Culverhouse is the chief executive officer and owner of Palmer Ranch Holdings, a planned community encompassing some 10,000 acres in Sarasota County. He is also the principal in Culverhouse Limited Partnerships and invests in real estate, securities and hedge funds. Both he and Eliza are known for their philanthropic efforts.
“I just want to thank the Culverhouses personally for believing in me and believing in all of us,” Toles said. “We are going to make a change in the world through this gift.”
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.