For the first time, a freshman at the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences will soon have the opportunity to earn a scholarship to the world-renowned school at the University of North Dakota. The new scholarship program was announced Oct. 4 at UND in memory of James C. Ray, a well-known philanthropist who died April 1 at age 94.
The $1.5 million James C. Ray Memorial Freshman Endowment was established through contributions from the UND Aerospace Foundation, the UND Alumni Association Foundation, and the James Ray Foundation. Additional funds are still being accepted for the endowment, which, within the next couple of years, will begin awarding scholarships to freshmen at the Odegard school. Heretofore, the UND aerospace program only awarded scholarships to upper classmen, which it will continue to do. As a result, a freshman who receives the Ray scholarship may be eligible for additional scholarships after the freshman year. "With this, we are taking the worry and debt away from students and their families," said DeAnna Carlson Zink, the CEO of the alumni association.
Larry Martin, chairman of the UND Aerospace Foundation board, said the scholarship was a fitting memorial for Ray, whose first gift to the university was a scholarship. After that, Ray went on to establish numerous scholarships for students and staff and contributed millions of dollars for buildings and other facilities at the university. Martin announced the scholarship in Robin Hall, a new facility funded by Si and Betty Robin, donors brought into the UND fold by Ray. The presentation was made in front of the UND Aerospace Legacy Wall, a display honoring Ray's contributions and others he has encouraged to contribute to the university, including the Robins, Clay Lacy, and Joe Clark.
At the celebration, numerous former interns, student and staff scholarship recipients, and friends shared their remembrances of Ray and the impact the venture capitalist and passionate pilot had on their lives.
AOPA President Mark Baker described Ray as having an almost childlike curiosity about all things—a passionate learner. "And always, he challenged those of us who knew him to stretch to do more. 'How are you going to make a difference?' he would ask." The Ray Foundation has been a major contributor to the AOPA You Can Fly initiatives. In addition, he provided funding to dozens of other youth and aviation causes and was an important adviser to numerous start-up aviation companies.