Community is critical, especially for veterans returning from service and starting their lives anew.
After serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II, William ("Bill") Steinmetz ’49 got much more than a business degree from UCLA. He met his wife, Mary Lou, and became part of a rock-solid community of veterans at the university. His son Charlie Steinmetz recalls, "All their friends, their social network...really became significant."
UCLA continues to build this community, enrolling more than 125 undergraduate veterans. Unfortunately, although the GI Bill provides well-deserved educational funds, veterans relying on it must finish their degrees within three years or find other support. "The GI Bill doesn't really give you the opportunity if you are trying to figure things out in life," says veteran Michael Smith ’16.
This challenge of marshaling financial resources did not escape Steinmetz. Supporting the courageous men and women returning from service was a cause close to his heart. "Veterans are already reliable leaders, so it's a pretty reliable filter," explains his son.
To honor Steinmetz, his family — including Mary Lou, Charlie, and Steinmetz's daughters, Ann and Jeanie — gave $1 million to assist Bruin veterans through enhanced programs and scholarships. Their generosity will alleviate stress for student veterans and give them the freedom to engage fully in their education, no matter the timing.
Smith says of the funding: "It would be a huge weight off a veteran's shoulders not to have to worry about how you're going to pay for school or housing — and just worry about studying."
Fall 2016 marked the first cohort of recipients, with nine students receiving more than $50,000 in scholarships to study with more focus and peace of mind.
The Steinmetz gift adds to the myriad ways UCLA serves those who serve, including providing care for 3,000 VA patients a year, on-campus services for student veterans, and state-of-the-art cosmetic and reconstructive surgery for wounded warriors. In addition, this past year UCLA has deepened its investment in several programs that support deserving student and alumni veterans.
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