When Dr. Michael Ragen was a freshman at UC San Diego, his mother and father died within months of each other.
“I had to drop a lot of classes that year,” he said. Fortunately, as the youngest boy in a family with four older sisters and a brother, he made it through. But he never forgot the tumult of trying to attend college amid the pain of losing his parents. If he ever became successful, he vowed, he would find a way to help others in his situation.
Ragen made it through college and, inspired by his father who had been a physician, graduated from medical school at the University of Health Sciences/Chicago Medical School, completing his internship and residency at USC Medical Center in the mid-‘80s. He would go on to become a prominent ophthalmologist in Ventura County. And when it was time for his family to decide on giving priorities, he and his wife Ann agreed to establish the Ragen Family Endowed Scholarship, which makes awards to Marshall students who have lost a parent.
And so it was that Cheryl Tolentino, a senior at USC Marshall who is concurrently working on her master’s in global supply chain management, met the benefactor of her scholarship.
“Having the opportunity to sit next to and talk with Dr. Ragen and his wife made the scholarship that much more meaningful to me. I was able to make a personal connection even as I thanked them for their generosity.” --Cheryl Tolentino
The two were able to meet and break bread together at the 25th annual USC Marshall Scholarship Luncheon, held November 8 in the Tutor Center Ballroom on USC’s University Park Campus.
“Having the opportunity to sit next to and talk with Dr. Ragen and his wife made the scholarship that much more meaningful to me,” said Tolentino. “I was able to make a personal connection even as I thanked them for their generosity.”
Making those kinds of connections is the central point behind the annual luncheon, according to Jeannie Bowman, senior director for development for USC Marshall.
“The Scholarship Luncheon is one of the most important events on the USC Marshall calendar,” she said. “It’s when the families who’ve funded scholarships get to meet the scholarship winners. It’s a day everybody looks forward to.”
There were 106 undergraduate scholarships and 62 graduate scholarships (plus one specifically for doctoral students) awarded to more than 500 students this year. Some family foundations fund multiple students (The Ted Komula Endowed Scholarship funds scholarships for some 28 students, for example), while others fund a specific few, such as the Ragan Family Endowed Scholarship.
Chelsey Ott MBA ’19, a Forte Foundation scholar and first-year MBA student, won a full scholarship partially funded through the Healy Family Endowed Scholarship.
“It made a 100 percent difference in my being able to continue my studies at USC,” she said. “This program has afforded me limitless opportunities, and I am so grateful to be awarded this generous scholarship.”
Over lunch, Tyrone Callahan, vice dean for undergraduate programs and professor of clinical finance and business economics welcomed the audience and introduced the keynote speaker: David M. Tehle, executive vice president and retired chief financial officer of Dollar General Corporation.
“You’ve all worked very hard early on in your career, and built wealth for your family and the people working around you,” he told the donors in the audience. “But at some point you realize that you’re in a position to give back. Remember, it’s not that much fun to make all that money and then keep it. You’ve got to give back.”
Earlier in 2017 Marshall senior leadership announced a goal to raise $100 million in new scholarship money—in addition to the more than $350 million already raised as the school’s part of the Campaign for Southern California.
Families with longtime ties to the USC Marshall and Leventhal communities were in attendance, as were new donors.
“We wanted to be involved, but between work and family, it’s hard to find the time,” said Tim Wang MBA ’03, who attended the luncheon with his wife Pamela. “But we really liked the permanent nature of an endowed scholarship fund. We are proud to be able to give back and help future Marshall students.”