SOUTHWEST, Fla. – Six University of Alabama students have been awarded full-tuition scholarships at the Culverhouse College of Commerce. They are among 24 scholars who have received financial support since the founding of the Eliza and Hugh F. Culverhouse Student Assistance Scholarship Fund in 2013 by chief executive officer and owner of Palmer Ranch, Hugh Culverhouse Jr. and his wife Eliza. The couple has given over $6 million to the university since launching the scholarship fund.
“It is always so exciting to recognize deserving students each year and ease their financial concerns about completing college,” Hugh Culverhouse Jr. said. “The amount of student debt in this country is staggering and a major financial obstacle to keeping students in school. This is an investment in our younger generation.”
The Culverhouse College of Commerce is named in honor of Culverhouse’s late father, Hugh Culverhouse Sr., a University of Alabama graduate, Florida attorney and the former owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The scholarships are awarded to students upon completion of at least two semesters and have proven life-changing by ensuring financial support through their remaining years at UA. It is because of the endowed fund’s support, students have been able to stay in school, increase the intensity of their studies and realize their ambitions. The Culverhouses realize the importance of helping students graduate without major debt. Student loans now exceed credit card debt and amount to $1.2 trillion. Nearly 70 percent of bachelor’s degree recipients carry debt averaging $35,000, which has tripled in the past two decades.
In addition to the funding, Eliza and Hugh Culverhouse Jr. also take a hands-on approach, personally meeting with recipients when visiting Tuscaloosa, offering advice, encouragement and inspiration.
“When Mr. Culverhouse comes to town, I get to meet with him,” said Aaron Fenton, a triple major in finance, economics and public relations and a 2015 scholarship recipient who was recently accepted to Harvard Law School. “He did what I want to do. He was a prosecutor, and he’s just a man that gives really good advice. And, maybe most importantly, he really cares about all the scholars and their successes.”
The fall 2016 Culverhouse scholarships were presented to freshman Clair Dickson; sophomores Kierstyn Johnson, Sarah Douglas Lowrey and Ryan Downy; and seniors Emily Ellis who will pursue a master’s degree in tax accounting and Cory Henry, a candidate for a master’s degree in accountancy.
Because he had no student debt, the younger Culverhouse was able pursue an opportunity working an as attorney for the federal government to gain valuable trial experience instead focusing on a higher paid job solely to pay back student loans. “I would have never had that choice if I had had student loans. I know a lot of parents’ only options – especially after the recession – are student loans for their kids.”
Hugh Culverhouse Jr., a former assistant U.S. attorney in Miami, is a long-time supporter of his parents’ alma mater.
His father, also an attorney, earned his wealth later in life as a real estate developer and business executive and was awarded the NFL franchise expansion for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“Many, if not most, of the Culverhouse scholars are the first in their families to attend college, and when they graduate, they are getting very promising jobs or pursuing graduate degrees,” Hugh Culverhouse Jr. said. “We just want to help more students get the burden of debt off their backs and realize the potential of their future.”
Last fall, Culverhouse contributed $2 million to the College of Commerce scholarship fund after challenging University of Alabama supporters and business colleagues to match his initial $1 million pledge with gifts to the college. He later doubled his support to $2 million, and the campaign raised more than $3.6 million from 1,015 donors in three months.
“Hugh and Eliza Culverhouse are passionate about helping young people and supporting the University of Alabama,” said UA President Dr. Stuart R. Bell. “We thank them for their generosity and creativity in challenging others.”
Culverhouse has a track record of increasing his initial pledge, doubling an original $250,000 challenge to $500,000 last year to endow a women’s golf scholarship fund in honor of his mother, Joy McCann Culverhouse, who starred as a UA golfer in the early 1940s. McCann Culverhouse played the amateur circuit in Alabama and later Florida, where she claimed the state’s 1961 title and was recognized in 1997 by the Florida House of Representatives for her numerous contributions to the advancement of women. The Joy McCann Culverhouse scholarship raised more than $1 million in six months for the Crimson Tide Foundation.
The younger Culverhouse credits his parents for setting a philanthropic example in support of higher education in Florida and Alabama. Culverhouse earned his undergraduate and law degrees from University of Florida, MBA from New York University in corporate finance and is a CPA. He also served on the board of directors of Del Webb Corporation, Capital Bank of Miami and as a member of the NFL’s Finance Committee. Culverhouse Jr. is the chief executive officer and owner of Palmer Ranch, a 10,000-acre master-planned community in Sarasota County, and the principal for Culverhouse Limited Partnerships.