It started as a thought, but the impact will be life-changing for two local high school seniors.
Eckerd College parent Mike O’Brien and his business partner, longtime Board of Trustees member George Off, turned a conversation about access to the liberal arts into a four-year scholarship for two students from marginalized groups in Pinellas County, Florida.
“[Mike] thought that by closing the gap on financial aid, we could give a deserving young [Pinellas County] person a chance at a high-caliber liberal arts education, help the College get closer to the community, and help the College with attracting much-needed diverse students,” Off says. “We hope it can make a difference.”
So the duo, who founded and worked together at Catalina Marketing before retirement, gave a $220,000 gift to Eckerd to make it happen.
The O’Brien/Off Scholarship will be awarded to two new students entering Eckerd College in Autumn Term 2022. Recipients of the scholarship—in combination with institutional, federal and state aid—will have tuition and mandatory fees, along with standard room-and-board charges, fully covered annually for up to four years.
Off is no stranger to giving to Eckerd. As a trustee since 1998, he helped fund a multiuse recreational structure on campus called the GO Pavilion. O’Brien, a longtime Pinellas County resident himself, sent his own son, Shannon, to Eckerd. Shannon O’Brien ’06 is also married to an Eckerd graduate.
Interested high school seniors from Pinellas County who apply to Eckerd, are admitted and have the results of their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) sent to Eckerd College by March 31, 2022, will be considered for the O’Brien/Off Scholarship.
“We are grateful to the O’Brien and Off families for their generous support,” says John Sullivan, vice president for enrollment management and dean of admission and financial aid. “These scholarships will assist in realizing the goals of our Strategic Plan to diversify the student body and to create even more meaningful relationships with our neighboring high schools and their students.”