Clerico Family Education Foundation encourages its graduates to remain involved
Tuesday, December 14, 2021
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It has been more than a decade since John Clerico and Diane Deakin set in motion an Oklahoma State University scholarship program mentoring future leaders.
Although it is still too soon to see some of the long-term effects of Clerico Scholars, the fatherdaughter team have already seen signs their program is working.
Scholars are chosen based on financial need, and the award is renewable for up to four years. Students must maintain good grades and complete a certain number of volunteer hours each semester to remain eligible.
“It’s evolved over time, like any time you start a business — you evolve, change and adapt,” said Deakin, president of the Clerico Family Education Foundation. “Our business happens to be the business of giving out college scholarship funds — but we wanted to be a little bit more involved and helpful. We wanted to provide value.
“What we didn’t want to have happen is that after we invested four to five years of our time and money, the students would still be struggling, unsure as to where they want to take their career paths. So we work closely with them. We have four years to build a relationship. Then, our goal is to expand our mentor pool to include folks who have graduated from the program to come back where possible and pay it forward.”
Dr. Faith Millard Wipf was part of the first Clerico Scholar class, graduating from OSU in 2016 with a degree in animal science and in 2019 with her doctorate in veterinary medicine.
The Clerico Family Education Foundation Scholarship provided opportunities and allowed Wipf to avoid student loans.
“My parents did not have money. I was able to get a part time job so I could still pay for food and random things that I needed, but the scholarship allowed me to focus on one thing — school,” said Wipf, who now works for a small veterinary practice in Oklahoma City.
Wipf still attends the annual dinners Clerico and Deakin host, talking with younger students to encourage them with their studies and networking.
And that, said Clerico, is the reward.
“The single most rewarding thing is seeing young people who are not yet particularly comfortable in their own skin — who maybe have personal issues of their own — as freshmen,” Clerico said. “But by the time they are seniors and graduate, they are transformed into bright, wellspoken young adults who look you in the eye when you speak and are just totally transformed. With our students, once they graduate, that is not the end of our relationship.”
In some ways, it is just the beginning.
As the Clerico Family Education Foundation has matured and those scholars begin to work in their chosen fields, Clerico said he is hopeful those graduates believe “it’s important to come back, participate with us and share experiences with their successors.”
"The way they support and believe in me, that's something that drives and motivates me."
Clerico said those scholars often share one trait — they are achievers. It’s a characteristic they also share with Clerico himself.
Clerico graduated from OSU in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in general business and has had an accomplished career. He is the chairman and owner of ChartMark Investments Inc., a Tulsa-based independent advisory firm that manages equity funds for individuals and small pension funds. He co-founded the firm in 2000 and serves as the registered financial adviser, leading everyday portfolio management and the strategic direction of the firm.
His volunteer resume is also extensive, with membership on several boards and a long list of volunteer roles at his alma mater.
In 2016, Clerico was inducted into the OSU Alumni Hall of Fame.
“I’ve received much more from Oklahoma State than I’m ever going to be able to give back,” he said.
It’s an impressive statement considering the multitude of ways he and his family have helped transform the university.
In athletics, they’ve made gifts to support OSU golf and helped fund renovations to Gallagher-Iba Arena, Boone Pickens Stadium and the men’s and women’s basketball locker rooms. They’ve also supported the College of Education and Human Sciences, Spears School of Business, Academic Affairs, the OSU Alumni Association, OSU-Tulsa, Edmon Low Library and The McKnight Center for the Performing Arts.
In 2012, when Clerico committed a $2.5 million endowment and annual funds to create the Clerico Family Education Foundation, he hoped to support up to four students at a time.
The first cohort of scholars included seven recipients who were awarded a total of nearly $60,000. This academic year, the Clerico Family Education Foundation Scholarship awarded 30 scholars more than $250,000. In total, there have been 79 scholars.
Current scholar Serah Reyes called meeting the Clericos life-changing.
“I saw how much they care for us and want us to succeed in life. That was really touching to me,” said Reyes, a global studies senior. “There is a support system. The way they support and believe in me, that’s something that drives and motivates me.”
Photos By: OSU Foundation
Story By: Beccy Tanner | STATE Magazine