Giving Profile: Charles Kurz IIJun. 10, 2009, 3:34 PM
Scholarships for students with financial need are a family affair for Charles Kurz II, and one with a long history for this fourth-generation Philadelphian.
“Our family has always been interested in education,” Kurz says. “My grandfather was almost a self-educated person, and fortuitously my father and his brothers and my mother and her family all were able to attend college. They all recognized the value of a college education, especially for those who could not afford one.”
Long before Kurz or anyone in his family had set foot on the Vanderbilt campus, he understood the impact that a scholarship gift can have. In the late 1970s, the first Kurz Scholarship was established at Trinity College in Connecticut, Kurz’s alma mater, where it continues today. There’s a Kurz Family Scholarship at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where Kurz, his father and an uncle studied. The family established named scholarships at the Episcopal Academy in Philadelphia where his children attended school and at the William Penn Charter School attended by Kurz, his uncles and cousins. The Webb Institute, a small private college in Glen Cove on Long Island, specializing in naval architecture and marine engineering, also has a Kurz family scholarship because the focus of the Kurz family business is in the maritime industry.
When Kurz’s son, Charles “Chad” Kurz III, attended Peabody (B.S.’04, M.Ed.’05), a Kurz Family Scholarship was established at Vanderbilt, too. For more than five years now, the endowed scholarship has enabled students to attend Peabody who might not otherwise have been able to afford a Vanderbilt education.
Soon after Chad began attending classes in 2000, Kurz became engaged with parent life at Vanderbilt and began to volunteer for Peabody. “My original connection started early in 2001 with the Parents Leadership Committee,” Kurz says. “I got involved subsequently with Peabody College’s component of the Shape the Future campaign. It was then that the decision was made to create a Kurz Family Scholarship at Peabody.”
The need-based scholarship is intended for students who have an interest in human and organizational development or are graduate students in organizational leadership or studying to have a career in institutional advancement. One or two recipients are named each year, and Kurz enjoys taking an active lead in getting to know them.
“I try to have a personal relationship with our scholars,” Kurz says. “When I come [to Nashville], I call in advance and ask to meet with our scholarship recipients. I want to understand their personal passions, their academic progress, what they intend to do after they graduate from Vanderbilt and let them know of the Kurz family’s interest in what happens beyond their Peabody education.”
Currently, there are two Kurz scholars: Kathryn Levene, ’09, and Maeghan Wilson, ’10.
“Mr. Kurz is the greatest,” Wilson says. “He loves Vanderbilt so much. He keeps up [with the scholars]. He can tell you things about his first scholar, five years back, and the things he is doing today. He is really sweet.”
Kurz has stayed connected with Vanderbilt and Peabody even after his son’s graduation, through roles on the Parents Leadership Committee and the Peabody campaign committee. That connection continues through three generations—his mother, himself and his son. Kurz’s 94-year-old mother, Dorothy, is one of the founding members of Vanderbilt’s successful Grandparents Leadership Committee.
“I say ‘Once a Vanderbilt parent, always a Vanderbilt parent,’ ” Kurz comments. “It’s very important to keep parents and grandparents engaged after their son or daughter graduates from Vanderbilt, at least up until their first five-year reunion. If we can be kept active in the institution, then that same loyalty and commitment to alma mater should rub off on the student who graduates.”
Kurz also sees himself as an ambassador for the Kurz family to Peabody. He supports Vanderbilt at home by hosting small functions for Philadelphia families who want to learn more about Peabody. He actively participates in events sponsored by the Vanderbilt Philadelphia chapter.
“What I hope to do is mentor for my son how important it is for us to continue the legacy that we’ve established at Peabody for helping other students who are less fortunate to have the opportunity to benefit from a Vanderbilt education,” Kurz says.