ISU Hixson scholars getting some surprise cash

Jennifer Dostal

The students wandered into the room, grabbed a few cookies from the refreshment table, settled down at the round tables and chatted quietly amongst themselves.

They didn’t know what Iowa State President Martin Jischke had in store for them in the Scheman Building Thursday night.

Last year, 100 students were awarded one-time $2,500 Hixson Opportunity Award scholarships to help pay for their freshman year. It was the second year of the program. The first group of Hixson scholars is now sophomores. One high school student is chosen from each county in Iowa to receive the scholarship.

Jischke told an elated crowd of 200 students that their “one-time” scholarships would be renewed for another year. For the sophomores, it was the second time their scholarships were renewed.

“It blows my mind. I’m so excited,” said Renee Mullins, a freshman in management information systems.

Hannah Wooledge, a freshman in construction engineering, said she was also surprised.

“I figured it [the renewal last year] was just because they were the first year,” Wooledge said.

Jischke said the students were deserving of the renewed awards.

“We felt you should have a present,” Jischke said. He was speaking on behalf of Christina Hixson, who lives in Las Vegas and was unable to attend.

On average, Hixson scholars have a higher retention rate and GPA than most students. Some students attributed part of their successes to the scholarships and the stress relief that the award provided.

“She took some money from her own pocket and that makes you motivated,” said Phil Roberts, a freshman in agriculture studies.

“I have a sense of responsibility knowing that someone’s investing in me. I’m going to prove them right. I’m going to do the best I can,” said Brian Hollatz, a sophomore in agriculture engineering.

Hixson started the scholarship program two years ago with $5 million that she invested in a stock portfolio. The stock portfolio produced more than expected and allowed the university to renew the scholarships again this year.

Jischke also announced that alumni and friends gave another $2 million to the awards program. Hixson has also kicked in another $500,000.

Jischke encouraged the students to follow the example set by Hixson.

“Do well in school. Go out and get a great job, and then you can do what Christina Hixson has done,” he said.