Paying it Forward

K-State alumna creates scholarship in Arts and Sciences

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"A scholarship made it possible for me to attend college. Some time ago I came to a point where I had all I needed, and I knew that I could help make it possible for students to have access to the same opportunities that I had." - Mel Zimmerman


"Money, pardon the expression, is like manure. It's not worth a thing unless it's spread around, encouraging young things to grow." —Dolly Gallagher-Levi, "The Matchmaker," 1955

Starring as the female lead in her senior class play, Melva J. Zimmerman (Mel) first recited those lines in 1959 as a 17-year-old onstage at El Dorado High School in El Dorado, Kan. What she may not have known at that time is that she'd remember those lines more than 50 years later when asked why she created a scholarship at Kansas State University.

A former scholarship recipient, Mel, who is retired from a 32-year career as an educator, now plays a new role — donor, advocate and supporter of higher education. Having attended K-State on a Putnam Scholarship, Mel understands firsthand the value of financial aid. And now with a gift to establish the Melva J. Zimmerman Scholarship in Arts and Sciences at K-State, she's invested in the university's growth by providing assistance to future students.

When she was awarded a scholarship to attend K-State, Mel, who was the salutatorian of her high school class, became the first member of her family to go to college. Her freshman year, when tuition was just $104, a $150 scholarship award covered her books and tuition — $75 for each semester. Her dorm expenses were covered by a summer job — scooping ice cream for 60 cents an hour at the Peter Pan Ice Cream Store in El Dorado, one of many jobs she worked to pay for dorm expenses during her time as a student at K-State. With stellar academic performance, her scholarship amount steadily increased to $300 over the course of four years, and she graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences in 1963 with a degree in English.

Looking back on her time as a student, Mel still appreciates that financial aid enabled her to attend K-State, and feels the greatest impact she can make at K-State is by creating a scholarship.

"A scholarship made it possible for me to attend college. Some time ago I came to a point where I had all I needed, and I knew that I could help make it possible for students to have access to the same opportunities that I had," said Mel.

"This scholarship means just as much to me as I hope it means to them."

Mel Zimmerman

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