ATHENS, OHIO – The Ohio University Foundation has received a $600,000 commitment from Dave and Valerie Scholl and The Scholl Family Foundation (donor-advised fund through the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio) to support both OHIO Athletics’ Campaign for Academic Excellence and the Wilfred R. Konneker-Charles J. Ping General Endowment for the Cutler Scholars Program.

The Scholls believe that “inter-collegiate athletics and the Cutler Scholars Program, like several other unique OHIO programs, are strong examples of the campus’s learning communities with the ability to enhance student engagement, learning and academic success,” said David Scholl.

“The Scholl’s and the Scholl Family Foundation have continually put the well-being of OHIO student-athletes and Cutler Scholars at the forefront of their involvement in giving back,” OHIO Director of Athletics Jim Schaus said. “We are so thankful for Dave, Valerie and the Scholl Family Foundation for continuing to cultivate a culture of academic excellence with OHIO Athletics, while also being pivotal in the development of current OHIO students as future leaders.”

Dave Scholl earned his doctorate from the College of Arts & Sciences in 1981. He returned to Athens in 1983 to join the Athens-founded and University-based start-up Diagnostic Hybrids, Inc. (DHI) as Director of Research. He served as president and CEO of DHI from 1997 until 2010, when the company was acquired by and merged with Quidel Corp.

The Scholl’s have been mainstays in support of the Athens and regional communities. “At DHI, and in conjunction with the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO), we invested our corporate philanthropic resources in the community and the region to enhance academic achievement, athletic opportunity and exposure to the arts,” Dave Scholl said. “Valerie and I, again along with FAO, are honored to join together with fellow OHIO donors similarly interested in enhancing the quality of the academic experiences and programming for future Cutler Scholars and OHIO student-athletes.”

The Academic Center will help OHIO student-athletes to continue to build on recent successes in the classroom. Last year 420 OHIO student-athletes averaged a 3.1 GPA.

“The Perry and Sandy Sook Academic Center (supported by the Campaign for Academic Excellence) will provide a singular place and positive educational environment in which OHIO’s student-athletes will develop stronger relationships with faculty, counselors, mentors, fellow student-athletes, coaches and athletic administrators,” Dave Scholl said. “With emphasis on attaining their longer-term educational and career goals beyond their athletic endeavors.”

Valerie Scholl shares a similar view of the Academic Center after her two sons’ involvement in college athletics. “After seeing my sons play and student-manage in intercollegiate athletics, and the heavy time commitment required, I know how challenging it is to balance athletics and academics,” she said. “Giving back to OHIO in meaningful ways is important to us, and this new facility will provide value to thousands of OHIO student-athletes and the University for decades.”

The Cutler Scholars Program – using a proven merit scholarship model like those developed by the Rhodes Trust of Oxford University – emphasizes identifying and nurturing leadership potential and on individual obligation to respond to the human condition. The selection process, colloquia and a challenging program of four enrichment experiences are designed to develop transformational leadership for society. Nearly 150 Cutler Scholars have graduated from the program since its inception.

The Konneker-Ping Fund is an endowment that is named in recognition of program founders Wilfred Konneker and OHIO President Emeritus Charles J. Ping. It supports multiple facets of the Cutler Scholars Program.

One requirement for Cutler Scholars is an enrichment experience in business, often achieved in a small, entrepreneurial enterprise. The benefit of these real-world opportunities to OHIO students and alumni has been evident at DHI. In both its early- and growth-stages, the company employed many OHIO graduates and also provided several Cutler Scholars internship opportunities.

“A significant number of OHIO students, indeed many with Appalachian Ohio roots and including several Cutler Scholars, cut their first professional teeth at DHI and remained in leadership roles post-acquisition,” Scholl said. “Development of OHIO students into effective leaders with solid career options in a technology-based field was highly encouraged, extremely gratifying to see happen and played an essential role in DHI’s corporate development strategy and growth of the regional economy.”

Valerie Scholl highlighted the growth of Cutler Scholars students as a highlight of her and Dave Scholl’s involvement in the program. “Dave and I know several of the students and their families, many attending OHIO as first generation students, and we often re-connect and hear from them as alums,” she said. “Their growth from freshman to senior year is simply amazing to see. We have also come to know many Cutler Scholar benefactors who have been extremely generous to establish the scholarships in the first place. With the recent expansion of the program, we are very pleased to have a portion of this gift go to enhancing the Konneker-Ping Endowment Fund as an investment in the program today and for future Cutler Scholars to come.”

The Campaign for Academic Excellence and the Cutler Scholars Program are two unique OHIO programs that align well with the Scholl’s interest in helping students reach their full leadership potential. Dave Scholl summed up their intentions saying: “We are happy to help make the Sook Academic Center a reality and to continue to support the Cutler Scholars Program. We hope other OHIO alumni and local community members share our interest and want to contribute to these student-centric initiatives as well!”

As of November 15, 2015, OHIO Athletics had raised $5.3 million toward a goal of at least $5.8 million for the Campaign for Academic Excellence. To learn more visit campaignforacademicexcellence.com or contact the Ohio Bobcat Club at (740) 593-1176 or through email at bobcatclub@ohio.edu. The Konneker-Ping Endowment Fund has reached $2.3M. To learn more about the Cutler Scholars Program, visit ohio.edu/cutler or contact giving@ohio.edu.