Major gifts to help NKU students stay in school

Promising Northern Kentucky University students who may be at risk of dropping out of college for financial reasons could get a lift soon from a new program seeded by major gifts from two Northern Kentucky families.

Rich and Lisa Boehne and Bill and Sue Butler each committed $1 million to fund the new LIFT Scholars Program.

LIFT, which stands for Lifelong Investment and Future Transformation, will focus on NKU students who have demonstrated academic potential but are at risk of not completing their degrees. The university will match the $2 million with other gifts from the community. Once realized, the program will have $4 million to support student success.

The LIFT program will award $5,000 to students who demonstrate a significant financial need and/or are the first in their family to attend college. The program goes beyond financial scholarships. It also requires students to engage with University Connect and Persist (UCAP), a program dedicated to helping students through challenges that threaten college completion.

The LIFT program provides resources that include outlining goals with advisors and attending group meetings with other UCAP students.

LIFT is part of the university’s Further, Faster Campaign, which it unveiled in May. It has raised nearly $49 million toward a $75 million goal. More than 12,000 donors have contributed nearly 34,000 gifts.

The Boehne and Butler gifts were made to the Horizon Community Fund, which was established in 2017 to pool resources for philanthropy in northern Kentucky.

“By structuring it as a dollar-for-dollar challenge grant, we hope to incentivize others to join us and the Boehnes to maximize the outcome for Northern Kentucky students,” says Bill Butler, longtime NKU supporter and Corporex Companies, LLC chairman.

Rich Boehne, NKU alumnus and E.W. Scripps Co. chairman of the board, says the wraparound services built into the LIFT program attracted him to support it.

“NKU serves students from diverse backgrounds, some are first generation or working full time, who may not have the support to navigate the college experience,” Boehne says. “The program not only addresses the financial challenges of college, but it works to ensure no one slips through the cracks.”

The gifts are among the largest commitments the Horizon Community Funds has made, says Nancy Grayson, president. “Any match goes to support our future workforce and will help elevate our region,” she says. “This is what Northern Kentucky leaders envisioned when they established our community foundation.”

The LIFT Scholars Program is anticipated to begin taking student applications for the next academic year. 
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David Holthaus is the managing editor of NKY Thrives, an award-winning journalist, and a Cincinnati native. When not writing or editing, he's likely to be bicycling, hiking, reading or watching classic movies.