by Mike McPhate via nytimes.com
It has long been one of the lesser-known facts about the life of Barack Obama. For all the talk about the former president and his Ivy alma maters — Columbia University and Harvard Law School — he actually spent the first two years of his higher education life, from 1979 to 1981, attending Occidental College in Los Angeles.
For Occidental, or Oxy as it is known, Mr. Obama has long been its little-known claim to fame. That may be about to change for this 2,000-student private liberal arts college founded in 1887. Occidental is announcing on Wednesday the creation of the Barack Obama Scholars Program, a $40 million endowment intended to cover the $70,000 annual tab of tuition and board for 20 students a year.
It will be aimed at providing four-year scholarships to veterans, community college transfers and those who are the first in their family to go to college. “My years at Occidental College sparked my interest in social and political causes, and filled me with the idea that my voice could make a difference,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. He said he hoped this program would “train the next generation of leaders and active citizens, and fill them with the conviction that they too can change the world.”
The program has raised $7 million, enough to fund two scholarships, starting next fall. The goal is to create a big enough endowment to fund not only scholarships but post-graduation fellowships for students who head into low-paying fields. Mr. Obama, who has been doing quite well financially since leaving the White House, has not yet written a check, but the president of Occidental, Jonathan Veitch, said the former president was high on his list of asks. “I am going all over the world asking people for money,” he said. “Why wouldn’t I ask him?”
“There are not many liberal arts colleges that educate a president,” Mr. Veitch said. “We are very proud of the fact and very proud of him. We thought this would be a great way to honor him and have our students emulate the values he represents.”