More than $20,000 was raised to aid Rogers State University students at the recent Mayes County Scholarship Breakfast.
Held Thursday, Sept. 21, at the Mayes County Event Center, the scholarship breakfast is an annual fundraiser which provides scholarships for students from Mayes County attending Rogers State University in Pryor, as well as students from Mayes County enrolled in classes at RSU in Claremore.
Although free to attend, the breakfast raised a total of more than $20,000 from donations for the RSU Foundation, the fundraising arm of the university.
On hand to welcome breakfast attendees was RSU President Dr. Larry Rice.
“I never want to miss an opportunity to thank everyone for being at the Mayes County Scholarship Breakfast. Your support of our students through scholarships is where the rubber meets the road in that it makes a tremendous impact on so many lives,” Dr. Rice began.
After recognizing numerous guests and university partners in attendance, including Pryor Campus Director Brett Rowh, Pryor Public Schools, and MidAmerica Industrial Park, Rice highlighted a recent milestone achieved through the Foundation.
“For the first time in its history, the Foundation will provide more than one million dollars in scholarships to RSU students this year. That’s no accident. That’s made possible by the generosity of everyone who gives through the RSU Foundation. Oftentimes, that generosity makes the difference in whether a student can graduate or not.”
Rice then shared a few more highlights of note from the university.
“Enrollment is up this fall, for which we’re grateful, with 3,200 students currently enrolled at RSU – an increase of 23 students over last fall, so that’s something we’re certainly grateful for,” he said. “You may or may not know that we’ve started a chemical engineering program and more importantly, we have more students than we expected for our first class. We had been shooting for five and we have eight. We’re only going to continue to build the program from there. It was a long battle for us to be able to introduce a chemical engineering program to a regional university, but we were happy to do that.”
Rice also shared about the addition of the first spring cohort to the university’s nursing program in Claremore, as well as the April 2023 announcement of RSU’s partnership with Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa.
“In some other exciting news, U.S. News and World Report recently ranked us as tenth on a list of Top Public Schools in the West, and we ranked very highly on the Best Regional Colleges of the West list and – something I’m most proud of – a few months ago, U.S. News and World Report ranked Rogers State University as a top five school in Oklahoma, behind OU, OSU and the two private schools, University of Tulsa and Oral Roberts,” Rice said. “There are some really good universities in Oklahoma, but in 23 years, we’ve made our way to the top to be recognized by U.S. News and World Report as fifth in the state, only behind the four big schools. This means RSU is the best regional, and most of those other regionals have had a 100 year head start, so I think that’s something worth being proud of.”
“Thank you – thank you for being here, for all that you do, for your generous support of student scholarships,” he said. “You’re making a positive impact on so many lives – an impact that will be felt for generations. The future looks bright for Rogers State University and here in Mayes County at our Pryor campus. As I like to say, ‘It’s a great day to be a Hillcat.’”
Following Rice’s remarks, Senior Director of Development Tonni Harrald thanked event sponsors and contributors, recognizing several of those in attendance.
Harrald was followed by scholarship recipient and student speaker Jeremy “Jace” Manos, who addressed the importance of scholarship opportunities and the difference they make in his life and for other students like him.
“I’d like to start this morning off by properly introducing myself. My name is Jace Manos and I’m from the small town of Salina, Oklahoma,” he began. “I’m currently enrolled in my first year in college, right here at Rogers State University, attending my first semester. I recently graduated from Locust Grove High School and plan to pursue a career in chemical engineering.
“As I was preparing to make this transition from high school to college, I wasn’t nervous or worried, but unsure about how I would fit into this new world,” he said. “Words cannot describe how much Rogers State has made me feel at home over the last seven weeks of my journey. From a welcoming environment to the hometown feel of this university, there truly isn’t a better fit for me. I believe this feeling will only grow over the years during my time at this wonderful university.
“Through contributions and scholarships such as these, I can obtain a degree without incurring a financial burden that would impact my future,” he said. “At this time, I’d like to express my gratitude to those who helped make this scholarship possible. I’m truly honored to be able to represent this fine establishment and grateful beyond words for everyone who made this investment in me. I promise to carry myself with dignity in class not just for myself but for all those who helped me along the way. Thank you and God bless.”
In addition to Manos, other students named 2023-24 Mayes County Breakfast Restricted Scholarship recipients included MacKenzie Brock of Salina, Seth Hobbs of Pryor, Zianna Simmons of Salina, Cade Simpson of Rose, Nathan Engles of Pryor, and Riley Suiter of Pryor.
Closing remarks were offered by RSU Vice President for Development Steve Valencia.
“One of the reasons we fought so hard to get a chemical engineering program is so students like Jace could study engineering and be able to do it at home, not to have to go to one of the flagships or go to the University of Tulsa. We’re excited that he’s part of our program,” Valencia said. “I want to thank you all for being here this morning. We can’t do the work of the Foundation without you. You are the Foundation. You are the ones who make it possible for us to award scholarships and support academic programs of Rogers State. We’re very grateful for the opportunities that you’ve presented us and to the Foundation.
“This year, the Rogers State Foundation is celebrating its 50th anniversary,” he continued. “We’ve very excited about what has occurred over the past 50 years – from a few individuals getting together to try to raise a few dollars for scholarships to a Foundation now whose assets are more than $26 million. As the president said, last year, for the first time, we were able to award more than one million dollars in annual private scholarship support for our students. That’s a tremendous accomplishment, but it’s only made possible because of you and because of what you continue to do. But the need is great, and the need continues.
“Recent studies by the Departments of Labor, Commerce, and Education indicate that by 2027, 70 percent of all jobs in the U.S. will require an education beyond a high school diploma and only 12 percent of the population in Mayes County has a bachelor’s degree,” he said. “Mayes County needs more college graduates. We need more people with bachelor’s degrees to keep the economy going. Your gifts to the Foundation allow us to provide more and more scholarships each year to Mayes County students, to provide the financial assistance they need so that students like Jace won’t have to take out loans. We’re proud of the fact that nearly half of our graduates leave RSU without any student debt. That’s a compliment to the work of the Foundation but also the leadership of RSU to try to keep a college education affordable.”
The RSU Pryor campus is the only university that serves Pryor and the Mayes County area. On average, more than 400 students are enrolled at the Pryor campus each semester.
The RSU Foundation’s next fundraising event will be the annual Scholarship and Auction Dinner at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tulsa (in Catoosa) on Nov. 9.
For more information or to make a tax-deductible donation to the RSU Foundation, contact Tonni Harrald at [email protected] or 918-343-7767 or Steve Valencia at 918-343-7780 or [email protected]. You may also make a donation online.