New multimillion-dollar scholarship to fund federal careers
Heirs to a supermarket fortune will launch a multimillion-dollar scholarship foundation on Tuesday designed to encourage college graduate students to pursue federal government careers in national security, foreign policy and international development.
The Robertson Foundation for Government plans eventually to provide full financial support to hundreds of graduate students in those fields who agree to complete at least three years of service with a federal agency within five years of graduation.
“We are very serious about the mission of getting these people to work for the government," said foundation director Bill Robertson. His mother, Marie Robertson, donated $35 million worth of stock in the A&P supermarket company in 1961 to Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
Her heirs sued Princeton in 2002, arguing the university had diverted her original donation from its stated purpose of preparing college students for public service.
The suit was settled last year after a prolonged legal battle closely watched by universities, nonprofits and donors increasingly eager to keep close tabs on their donations. Terms of the settlement require Princeton to pay approximately $60 million in payments and interest to the foundation by 2018.
The foundation plans to name four or five partner universities in the coming weeks and then to select its first eight Robertson Fellows by the start of the 2010-2011 academic year, Robertson said. Partner universities must agree to pay some student costs, and none of the partners will be members of the Ivy League, he said.
Though most scholarship recipients may consider careers with the State Department and Foreign Service, Robertson hopes they will also consider jobs with the U.S. Agency for International Development, congressional committees, intelligence agencies and international development programs at other Cabinet departments.
The foundation’s board of directors includes former Virginia governor and Sen. Charles S. Robb, former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft and Brookings Institution government scholar Paul Light. The group plans to eventually establish a public service award program and intends to work with federal agencies on their retention efforts.
“We would like to attempt to make federal jobs more enticing to graduate students and also make these jobs more interesting," Robertson said. "One of the things students find after a few years is that they don’t find [public service] as interesting or rewarding after a few years.”
Few other endowments have provided such generous or specific support to students pursuing government careers, said Max Stier, president of the Partnership for Public Service.
“It’s certainly not unique, but it’s important and there aren’t enough of them," Stier said. His group was founded in 2001 by businessman Samuel J. Heyman, who also established public service fellowship programs at Harvard and Yale universities.
Interested applicants may obtain more information starting Tuesday at http://www.rffg.org.
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