Since its creation in 2011 by the classes of 1965 and 1966, the Eagle Fund at the University of North Georgia (UNG) has awarded $64,000 to 29 cadets and has grown to an endowed fund topping more than $200,000.
The scholarship was started shortly after the Class of 1966's 45th-year class reunion and now the fund has donors from classes from 1957 to 1984. Paul Lockard ('66) and Les Redwine ('65) helped start the scholarship, with an initial goal of raising $25,000.
"It's unbelievable. It's good to give back and you feel good about it," Lockard said. "While you're in school, all you want to do is get out. But down the road, you realize that North Georgia was a good part of your life and gave you a pretty good jump start on your life – military and career. It gave us a good foundation both academically and in military knowledge and skills."
Cadet Amir Casimir said receiving the Eagle Fund
For Amir Casimir, a UNG cadet from Buford, Georgia, receiving the Eagle Fund Scholarship for the 2015-16 academic year meant that he no longer had to balance work, school and corps duties.
He is in his junior year, which is when corps responsibilities and requirements get more intense for contracted cadets like Casimir, who will commission into military service upon graduation.
"I was working at Target to help pay for school, and it was getting a little difficult with my commitment to the corps and balancing school," Casimir said. "After getting this scholarship, I didn't have to worry about that aspect, and I could concentrate on my studies and the corps."
Casimir, first sergeant for the Corps of Cadets' Golf Company, is pursuing a bachelor's degree in health and physical education. This year's recipients, who each received $2,500, were Cadets Tyler Atteberry, Casimir, Vessor Smith, Joseph Tapia, Christopher Waddington, and Jonathan Whisenant.
"This scholarship recognizes the potential for good leadership and that really values what the University of North Georgia stands for," Casimir said. "Other people see you with this potential and reward you for it. I was just doing what I thought was right and getting this scholarship was a big morale booster. It's that extra push to not give up and keep doing what you're doing because you're on the right path."
Elizabeth Rhodes, a member of the Class of 1966, also has been involved in growing the fund, along with three members of the Class of 1968 – Tony Faiia, Parker Miller and Bo Fears.
"I think a lot of my classmates got in touch with their own mortality at our last reunion and knew that if we didn't do something we wouldn't leave anything," Rhodes said. "I think it's important for women to be involved in this fund, because the military was a part of our lives while we were in school, too."
Phil Collins ('75), who is director of development for the Corps of Cadets and leads fundraising efforts, praised the efforts of the alumni.
"Over the course of several years, they have organized for the purpose of reaching as many of their classmates and others from surrounding years to grow the fund base to benefit more and more students," Collins said. "UNG is fortunate to have generous alumni who understand the value of the experience they obtained while enrolled as a student here and are willing to 'pay it forward' so others may similarly benefit."
The Class of 1966 will hold its 50th-year reunion during Alumni Weekend 2016, set for April 22-24 on the Dahlonega Campus. For more information, visit ungalumni.org or email email@example.com.