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UND announces $1.5 million aviation scholarship fund

UND is rolling out a new scholarship pool for incoming aviation students.

University leaders, including several from the UND Aerospace Foundation, announced Tuesday the creation of the $1.5 million James C. Ray Memorial Freshman Scholarship Endowment.

Ray, a venture capitalist who died in April at the age of 94, was a major benefactor of UND who contributed nearly $25 million to the school, much of that earmarked for aviation.

Larry Martin, chairman of the aerospace foundation's board of directors, described Ray as a "great friend," adding that it was an honor to recognize his memory "in honor and perpetuity" with the endowment.

Martin said the funding for the endowment is divided equally in $500,000 contributions provided by the foundation's board of directors, as well as from Chuck Ahearn, president of the James C. Ray Foundation and the UND Alumni Association and Foundation. The alumni association's contribution was awarded as part of its UND Promise Scholarship Program, a matching initiative targeted at private donors.

The endowment dollars will mature for at least one year before the dividends can be paid out in student scholarships. DeAnna Carlson Zink, CEO of the alumni foundation, estimated that $60,000 will be available for students beginning Fall 2019.

Even with money in the pot, Martin said the board of directors is looking to continue the growth of the endowment fund to provide more scholarships to freshman students.

"The (John D. Odegaard School of Aerospace Sciences) distributes well over $350,000 a year in scholarships in existing students, but we had the void in terms of awarding scholarships to incoming students and attracting the best and the brightest," he said. "The James C. Ray Memorial Scholarship is designed to fill that void."

In keeping with the purpose of the fund, much of the Tuesday announcement—which was held before the Robin Hall "Legacy Wall" honoring friends of UND aerospace programs—was given over to remembering the legacy of Ray.

Chuck Kluenker, who sits with Martin on the aerospace foundation board of directors, said he first met Ray by chance on a visit to a UND facility at the Grand Forks International Airport in the late 1990s. Kluenker said that Ray had first gotten acquainted with UND aerospace programs when arriving in Grand Forks through that same airport on a trip to the city for a Cirrus Aircraft board meeting.

While in town on that trip, Ray met with the founder of the aerospace programs, the late John D. Odegaard, and soon became an eager advocate for the aviation school at UND. That advocacy would carry on until his death.

"Not only did James share his financial wealth," Kluenker said, "but he shared what I would say is equivalent enthusiasm for aviation and for young people who are passionate about aviation."

Andrew Haffner

Andrew Haffner covers higher education and general assignment stories for the Grand Forks Herald. He attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he studied journalism, political science and international studies. He previously worked at the Dickinson Press.

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