Since they graduated from CU in the early ’80s, Cliff (CivEngr, Hist’82) and Carol (Jour’81) Pearson have seen a lot of the world — 75 countries and counting, in fact.
But their hearts remain in Boulder.
That’s why they’re investing in the next generation of Forever Buffs by funding scholarships for students in the College of Engineering and Applied Science. They also recently created a new scholarship for students in the Department of History, within the College of Arts and Sciences.
“Education creates well-rounded human beings with a multitude of skills,” said Cliff, who is also a member of the Engineering Advisory Council. “Depending on how you take those skills and run with them, it can dictate what your success will be in life.”
This year, the Cliff and Carol Pearson Endowed Scholarship Fund is celebrating its 10th anniversary. This fund provides scholarships to undergraduate engineering students who are enrolled in a double-degree program or participants in the engineering school’s Broadening Opportunity through Leadership and Diversity (BOLD) Center.
The Pearsons have also established scholarships for first-generation students in both history and engineering — the two fields that Cliff studied at CU Boulder. In his retirement, one of Cliff’s goals is to reduce income inequality, and he says that first-generation scholarships are a great opportunity to do that. Recently, the Pearsons increased their planned bequest supporting first-generation engineering students to $1 million.
“In school, I had Pell Grants and work-study programs that helped me pay for college,” said Carol, a second-generation Buff whose father and two brothers also attended CU. “I’m happy to help students in financial circumstances similar to those I grew up in.”
By establishing and sustaining these scholarship programs, the Pearsons are opening doors for engineering and history students, especially first-generation students in both areas and others traditionally underrepresented in engineering.
“Both of the Pearsons’ engineering awards have had a tremendous impact on the awardees,” said Jenna Greenwood, the engineering college’s program manager for scholarships and college affordability. “They have provided the financial support needed for students to continue their educational journey and spend less time figuring out how to pay for their degree.”
“We are so grateful to Cliff and Carol Pearson for their generosity in establishing this scholarship fund in history, which will help our undergraduates make their education more affordable and perhaps encourage them to follow their interests and pursue a well-rounded liberal arts education,” added Marcia Yonemoto, chair of CU’s history department. “We’re looking forward to receiving our first round of applications for the Pearson Scholarship this summer.”
To the Pearsons, supporting student scholarships is a tangible way to not only invest in future generations of leaders and innovators, but also to give back to a place that is so meaningful in their lives.
The pair met while working as resident advisors at CU and attribute much of their success to their roots in Boulder. Cliff also received a small tuition scholarship while he was a student and considers his and Carol’s current and future giving a way to pay it forward.
“One of our hopes in providing scholarships is to help students avoid incurring significant debt, so that when they graduate, they’re set up for success,” said Cliff.
“I hope that all the Pearson Scholars graduate from CU and have wildly successful careers — then give a little back to CU.”
Pearson Scholars in Action
When you sit down to chat with the 2021–22 Pearson Scholars, it’s clear they’re motivated and thoughtful students. A recent conversation with scholars Jovani Guzman (MechEngr’24) and Tobin Price (MechEngr’22; MS’23) illuminated their stories and some of the ways they’re aiming to make a difference in the world.
What are you studying here at CU?
Jovani Guzman: I just finished my third year as a mechanical engineering student, as part of a five-year track. I’m involved with the Engineering GoldShirt program and the BOLD Center, which is a very collaborative space. Anyone is welcome when they go there. It’s made me feel much more comfortable being part of the engineering college. I’m also part of the Golden Buffalo Marching Band, where I play sousaphone.
Tobin Price: I recently graduated with my bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering with a minor in music. I’m currently working at LASP (Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics) as the command controller, and I’m planning to continue for another year here at CU in grad school — I’ll be doing an accelerated master’s program on the mechanical engineering professional track.
What’s a recent project or accomplishment that you’re excited about?
Guzman: For me, it’s all about networking right now. As part of my “Mechanical Professions” class, I was able to speak with several professionals in the engineering field, including a former systems engineer who now leads an international engineering team. Being able to talk to those people and seeing how industry works from their perspective makes me look forward to building more connections.
Price: The last semester of your senior years offers all sorts of cool classes. For my senior design class, my team designed and manufactured an atmospheric Doppler lidar scanner — basically a laser deflector unit to measure atmospheric conditions, in affiliation with NOAA [the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration]. We created a system that measures wind speeds and knows exactly where it’s pointing to 0.02 degrees of accuracy.
What are you passionate about outside of school?
Guzman: Music is a big part of my life. That stems from high school, when my former band director told me about a Venezuelan conductor who was also impoverished and went through a program for their music, which really turned their life around. It really inspired me to help people.
Price: I love being outside — running, rock climbing, hiking. It’d be really cool to go into a field that helps protect the planet. And I also love music. I’ve played the alto sax for about 10 years, and I also produce electronic music and have been DJing parties and weddings around Boulder for the past year.
What makes you hopeful for the future?
Guzman: With my Hispanic background, family is a very important aspect within our culture. So I’m driven by a hope for stability in my family. Someday, when I graduate and obtain a job that pays well, I can gain stability for my mother and father — and hopefully raise a family of my own, feeling safe about my own future and for my next of kin.
Price: I find hope in knowing that there are genuinely good, kind, empathetic people out there. There’s been a lot of nastiness in society the past couple years, but seeing people who are genuine in their intent to help others is really inspiring to me. I’m also inspired by the professors at CU and how engaged they are in every student’s personal success.
Why does education matter to you?
Guzman: Education opens doors. It feels like there’s a lot you can’t do without a certain level of education, which can be tough for those of us who can’t always afford that education — to gain opportunities for a better life. It’s also about learning more about the world. You’re not just learning things for a future job; you’re also learning about ethics and history, to allow for reflection as you move forward.
Price: I agree with Jovani — there are a lot of opportunities that are blocked off by the education barrier, so that’s a good reason why education is important. It’s also good for personal growth. Especially in a difficult field, education helps us strive to be the best person we could be. Learning new things is a very noble pursuit.
How do scholarships support your education?
Guzman: Financially, scholarships help cover tuition costs. Because of that, I’ve had a lot more time to just be a student. I don’t have to put so much time toward working to pay for tuition out of pocket. The additional time I have as a student has also allowed me to do things like be part of the marching band and interact with students through the GoldShirt program.
Price: I’ve been able to make it through my four years of undergrad without incurring any student loans, thanks to scholarships. It takes the financial pressure off of paying for tuition, along with the living situation in Boulder, food and other expenses. It’s been a blessing to not have to worry about that the way I see some of my peers having to do.