Giving Back to Disabled Veterans

Transitioning from military service to civilian life can be a challenge for any veteran. For the nation’s thousands of disabled veterans, the challenges are even greater. Often already juggling the demands of family, work, and their own rehabilitation, many also seek to pursue higher education.

Thousands of veterans in the D.C. and Northern Virginia region are interested in attending George Mason University, one of the best bargains in higher education. Despite the education assistance available to recent veterans through the post-9/11 GI bill, cost remains a significant barrier.

Chris Jones, a local business leader who received his master’s degree from Mason’s School of Public Policy in 1999, was looking for a way to help. Jones is president and CEO of Fairfax-based ERPi, a thriving contractor to federal agencies. A veteran himself, Jones decided his company would establish a scholarship at the school expressly for service-disabled veterans.

Since 2012, ERPi has donated more than $70,000 to fund immediate scholarship assistance for deserving service-disabled veterans who enroll in the Schar School of Policy and Government (as the school will be formally renamed effective August 1). Criteria for the scholarship include financial need, academic achievement, and demonstrated interest in public service. Because Jones knows that mentorship and professional development are equally valuable for transitioning veterans, he also offers recipients a one-semester (or more) paid internship with ERPi.

Army reservist John Ferry, who graduated with his master’s degree in public policy at the end of 2015, is one recent scholarship recipient. Ferry entered the Army on his 18th birthday, eventually became a Green Beret, and was married with three children before finally entering Mason. “Without a doubt, except for the scholarship I could not have gone to grad school,” he says. Ferry, whose wife Shelly gave birth to their fourth child in May, will use his policy degree to advance his career at the Pentagon.

Marjorie Thomas is the spouse of a wounded warrior who received the Purple Heart for his service in Afghanistan. Currently a full-time student, she is juggling her own career goals with the demands of being a caregiver for her husband, an advocate for wounded veterans, and a parent to the couple’s four young children. The $2,500 per semester that her ERPi scholarship provides is essential support. “I just want to make it to the finish line,” says Thomas, who expects to graduate with a master’s in public administration in May 2017. “Every day seems to be a new obstacle in my path. I’ve had to rearrange my life to be sure I’m with the kids. I really want to make this work and to give it my all.”

Now, thanks to substantial additional support from ERPi, others like Ferry and Thomas will have the opportunity to pursue their education goals. Beginning with the 2016 fall semester, ERPi is expanding the scholarship program to offer assistance to as many as eight recipients annually.

The ERPi scholarship is just one of many support services offered by Mason’s Office of Military Services. The need is great: one out of every ten students at George Mason University—nearly 3,400 in all—is a veteran, a current military service member, or the dependent of one.

Veterans and their families have already given up much in order to serve others. Scholarship assistance and career support provided through Mason are one tangible way that we can thank them and give back. It is a great investment, not only in their future, but in ours.

July 19, 2016 / RR

Giving Opportunities

If you are interested in supporting Mason’s efforts on behalf of veterans, military members, and their families, please consider making a gift to the Veterans Service Initiative. For information, please contact Brock Field, Director of Leadership Gifts, at 703-993-7992 (or by email at bfield4@gmu.edu).