WKU Opportunity Fund
A Student-Centered Initiative
Why We Gave: WKU Opportunity Fund Donors & News
During the Faculty and Staff Convocation on Aug. 16, 2021, WKU President Timothy C. Caboni announced that the University has raised $51,864,000 for the WKU Opportunity Fund, surpassing the initial goal of $50 million.
“However, we are not done,” added President Caboni. “We must continue our efforts to increase access and to ensure every Hilltopper will benefit from the full WKU Experience, no matter their economic condition. I am proud to announce today an extended goal for the Opportunity Fund. Under the banner ‘Where Opportunity Leads,’ we will immediately begin our work to raise an additional $50 million for the WKU Opportunity Fund, bringing the total to $100 million.”
Born from a $100 gift from a faculty member, the idea for the College Heights Foundation (CHF) started with the goal to help WKU students in need. This summer, CHF celebrates its 98th anniversary with achieving the milestone of surpassing $100 million in its endowment.
The Dr. Martha J. Sales ISEC Award, established through a generous gift from Cynthia “CJ” Nichols (’82) of Haverford, Pa., was created and awarded for the first time during Women’s History Month in March 2021.
“It means so much for someone to believe in you, but it means more for them to really be there to actually help you succeed,” said Kearra Boone. “To receive an award named after Dr. Sales made me feel as if I was following her legacy, and I know there is still room for me to grow and to better myself. I’m so thankful for this opportunity.”
“Giving back is a small way for me to say thank you for helping make me the person I am today,” said GeMonee. “WKU is special to us because we met here and we love everything WKU. To support another Hilltopper is a good feeling.”
The College Heights Foundation, which administers privately funded scholarships for Western Kentucky University students, awarded 45 scholarships for the first time this fall. These include newly established scholarships or funds that reached endowment level to begin making annual awards. Since its founding in 1923, the College Heights Foundation (CHF) has grown to include more than 1,300 scholarship funds to directly support Western Kentucky University (WKU) students.
The Toppers Assist Scholarship was established in July 2020 by four former Hilltopper Basketball student-athletes who united to honor their alma mater and provide opportunities for underrepresented groups at WKU. These former student-athletes want to help WKU achieve its educational goal of promoting a diverse environment by creating a scholarship to support students who may not be able to afford college without financial assistance. Since the announcement of the Toppers Assist Scholarship, eight other student-athletes have joined to support the scholarship, and more partnership announcements are expected
“The single-most important reason for me to establish this scholarship was to honor
the Black Lives Matter movement,” said Dozier. “I want to assist individuals who seek
to become leaders in their field of study and in their community. If we want to see
change occur, it must start with us and our ability to lead other individuals.”
“Having the opportunity to promote becoming an educator and to honor my parents’ history of service was such a great combination,” said Dr. Janet Tassell, an Associate Professor in WKU’s School of Teacher Education. “As anyone knows who has had a great teacher, doors open up. We want to do everything we can to bring more people to the field of education, and especially those interested in mathematics and science.”
“All of us in Rho Chapter had the privilege of calling Taylor a sister and friend,”
shared members of the Chapter. “Taylor’s heart for serving those around her and the
pride she felt for Omega Phi Alpha radiated from her. The moment Taylor became our
sister, she brought so much joy and love to our chapter. Taylor always had a smile
on her face and never hesitated to lend a helping hand.”
“Forty percent of our student population are first-generation college students. That
number really resonated with me because I was a first-generation college student,
and I was able to succeed in college because of scholarship support. We feel very
strongly about supporting education, and we wanted to do something to benefit Kentucky
students. - Kacy S. Caboni
“My experience as a graduate student in the Department of Communication was one of
the most formative experiences of my life and helped to shape much of my professional
career. Kacy and I want to help others who share our passion for communication to
benefit from the same applied experiences I was provided as a WKU student.” - President
Timothy C. Caboni
“Private scholarship support is critical for those seeking to advance themselves through higher education, particularly for those brave individuals who serve in our military. It is our privilege to provide these funds to assist those who serve our great country!” - John Ridley of Wells Fargo Advisors
“I always wanted to do something for the school because Western did a lot for me,
and I really appreciate that. Debby and I talked about it and decided now was a good
time. It’s a great feeling. I just feel so fortunate that we’re able to do this.”
- Dr. Hugh Wilhite
“I’m a first-generation college graduate, and without support from people around me,
that wouldn’t have happened. Not everyone has parents who can afford to send them
to college. When we heard about the WKU Opportunity Fund, we wanted to help give kids
a ‘yes.’” - Sunshine Micatrotto
“Supporting my alma mater makes me proud and excited, but more than anything it has
allowed me to help something I’m so passionate about. We are blessed to be able to
do something like this. Being a part of the WKU family is a real thing to our family.”
- Joe Micatrotto
“A scholarship like this would have been useful to us personally,” said Sherrie Swanberg.
“This is a way to help students who really want to be educated by opening up opportunities
they may not have otherwise.”
“The needs-based aspect really spoke to us,” added Chris Swanberg. “We both come from modest backgrounds, so being able to make this available seemed like a great way to give back. The WKU Opportunity Fund is such a unique way to make a difference for students.”
“This grant, intended to bolster WKU’s efforts to give students from all backgrounds the support needed to help them persist and earn a degree, aligns with the Foundation’s goals in student success. The Foundation believes that the well-being of individuals and communities is closely linked to educational attainment and is pleased to support efforts that help more Kentucky students earn postsecondary credentials.” - Mason Rummel, President and CEO of the James Graham Brown Foundation.