UCLA is on a mission to open doors: to higher education, real-world learning, and opportunities for people to improve their lives and those of others. And the university is committed to ensuring that students from all walks of life can walk through those doors.
Fortunately UCLA’s alumni and friends are on the same page. Kellie Newcomb Hepper ’79 and her husband, Jeffrey Hepper, have given $1 million to create a scholarship for undergraduate students in any school or academic area at UCLA. The couple is deeply committed to helping students seek higher education, from establishing scholarships at other universities to supporting a charter school that serves students from low-income communities.
“We have really been moved by students’ stories,” Newcomb Hepper says. “Every term, we hear from recipients who would have had to drop out or quit extracurricular activities to get jobs if they hadn’t gotten a scholarship. We’ve been lucky enough to be able to give, and we know it’s so appreciated, and that’s why we’ve continued to set up scholarships.”
A Timely Investment
Scholarships are a continuing priority for UCLA, too, especially as students experience greater financial burdens during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many students and their families are facing difficult decisions about education as they struggle with employment, housing, and other basic needs, while remote learning has required new devices like laptops or internet hotspots. In this landscape, the Heppers’ scholarship is a welcome resource.
“UCLA has always been committed to providing opportunities for the highest-achieving and most passionate students to grow into our world’s future leaders, and we continue to advance that mission in the midst of challenging times,” says Youlonda Copeland-Morgan, vice provost for enrollment management. “Philanthropy is an important partner in this endeavor, and we are immensely grateful to the Heppers for their generous gift.”
A Key to the Future
At UCLA, where one in three Bruins is a first-generation college student and 35 percent receive Pell grants, opportunity is more than just an aspiration. The Equality of Opportunity Project ranked the university as the top elite college for overall mobility, affirming UCLA as a community where students from all backgrounds can thrive and build better lives for themselves and their families.
The Heppers, too, believe that education is the key to future opportunities — and that students from any background pursuing any major deserve their support.
“Whether arts or engineering students, everybody has needs, but we realized that the opportunity to get a college degree really opens up a lot more doors,” says Newcomb Hepper. “I was fortunate to get a great education at UCLA, and I’m happy to be able to pass that experience on to others who might not be able to afford it.”
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Published October 2020