Ronnie and Allyson Morris know hard work.

Before they ever dreamed of laying the flooring in the beautiful Baton Rouge home they built themselves, each worked their way through LSU—Allyson maintaining a perfect GPA while balancing multiple jobs, and Ronnie raising two children as a single father who worked full time and was a full-time engineering student.

“When I reflect back on getting through that season in my life, my daughters were a huge inspiration. But I think it was my faith, financial support from scholarships, and friends from The Chapel on the Campus that really encouraged me throughout that time,” Ronnie shared. “Thank God it all worked out well beyond my imagination.”

He received an LSU Board of Supervisors Scholarship two consecutive years after writing Rolfe McCollister Sr. to explain his situation. Now 19 years into his career as an engineer at ExxonMobil, Ronnie and Allyson, a supervisor at the company, are passing along the opportunity to students in the College of Human Sciences & Education.

“The scholarship that was provided for me was a life-changing experience. We wanted to express our appreciation to the family that helped us, and we wanted to provide similar opportunities for other people,” Ronnie said, adding that they wanted the award to benefit future teachers because, “I have a lot of appreciation for those pursuing this career path and the need for quality educators. I wanted to make a difference in our community, and I am confident these folks are impacting lives in a very positive way.”

In 2001, Ronnie took advantage of ExxonMobil’s 3-to-1 matching gift program to create the Dot and Rolfe McCollister Sr. Leadership Award, Ronnie’s expression of gratitude to the people who helped him. The endowed scholarship currently supports three students each academic year. Once they have completed their pledge, it will be the largest endowed scholarship in the college’s history and will provide full tuition for four students every year.

“It seems like most of the students come from difficult backgrounds, or have had to work to put themselves through school,” Allyson shared. “But they’re deserving. That’s the kind of person I want to see get it.”

Ronnie and Allyson explained that the scholarship is based on need, leadership qualities and character, validated through a pastoral reference. “I think we honor God by trusting the pastors in our community to recognize the character and leadership skills that will inspire our kids in the classroom to be the best they can be,” Ronnie explained.

Every year, Ronnie and Allyson invite the scholarship recipients to their home. Ronnie shared, “[We] have heard some heartwarming stories. The scholarships have encouraged some great kids in pursuit of their teaching careers, and now they are teachers making a big difference in the classrooms of our community. You really feel like you’re making a difference.”

 

Published in Cornerstone Summer and Fall 2015.