On Veterans Day, William & Mary’s Raymond A. Mason School of Business announced a $1 million commitment from Dan Akerson P ’00 and his late wife Karin Akerson P ’00, to create a scholarship for students who are active duty or veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces enrolled in the business school.
“William & Mary has a long legacy of service to our nation, dating before the Revolutionary War. For centuries, our students and alumni have been very civic- and service-minded — helping to defend our freedoms and improve our communities,” said President Katherine A. Rowe. “Through this generous scholarship, the gift of opportunity is being given to those who have sacrificed so much for our country. On this Veterans Day, we are all grateful, inspired and thankful.”
The majority of active military and veteran students at William & Mary are enrolled in the business school. It is estimated that approximately 20 percent of all Mason School of Business graduate students are affiliated with the military — with a large percentage of those enrolled in the full-time MBA, Online MBA and Executive and Flex MBA programs.
The university overall, including the Raymond A. Mason School of Business, aims to enhance enrollment efforts, services and programs for active military and veteran students. Scholarships are a vital step forward in that effort and are critical to strengthening our community of diverse perspectives, added Rowe.
“For a long time, this scholarship is something Karin and I felt was the right thing to do — we wanted to pay it forward to those who have put their country’s well-being ahead of their own,” said Dan Akerson. “So many soldiers and veterans have the skills, talent and grit to excel in any business environment and to thrive in our rapidly changing world. It is my hope that our scholarship will help them reach their full potential by providing them with the means to hone these skills so they can be successful in all of their future endeavors.”
Dan is the son of a World War II and Korean War veteran, and served in the U.S. Navy for several years after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy. A regular fixture at the Mason School of Business who reached the pinnacle of corporate success as chairman and CEO of General Motors, Akerson has a long list of achievements that have had an impressionable impact on students, faculty and the public alike, said Mason School Dean Larry Pulley.
He has volunteered his time in many capacities, including as an executive in residence and guest lecturer at the Mason School — focusing on topics such as business and ethics — as well as a McGlothlin Leadership Forum Fellow in 2016. He has also held a leadership role on the William & Mary Business School Foundation.
Karin was actively involved at the university and within her local community, and for years worked in a variety of roles at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. A proud parent of a William & Mary student and two other children, Karin cared deeply about providing students with exceptional educational opportunities — and making sure that such opportunities are within reach for those facing challenges, including financial difficulties, added Dan. Earlier this year, she passed away after a courageous battle with cancer.
“I admire so much about Mr. Akerson’s character — he left his powerful position at GM to take care of his late wife and to be by her side during a difficult time. Through his philanthropy, and by making this gift in Karin’s memory, he is sending a powerful message to veterans facing hardships and challenges that they matter,” said Jonathan Ward M.B.A. ’19, who is an officer in the U.S. Army. Ward has served in the Army for 21 years and has been deployed nine times in combat zones including Afghanistan, Iraq and countries throughout the continent of Africa.
Ward added, “This scholarship provides an avenue for these students to achieve success beyond the military and represents a catalyst for them to earn their degree from a world-renowned institution such as William & Mary. But above all else, it provides them with hope.”
When asked what he wants to do when he retires from the military, Ward said, “In the words of Mr. Akerson himself, ‘if I’m not set out to be a CEO, I shouldn’t be here.’ I aspire to set the bar as high as he did."
Dean Pulley has witnessed firsthand the impact Akerson has had on the students at the business school. He’s seen him work directly with many of the active military and veteran students, including Ward.
“A veteran himself, Dan has been a longtime advocate for those serving in our military. He recognizes the valuable leadership skills and unique perspectives that active military and veterans bring to the table — as well as their potential for translating those skills into the business world. Dan exemplifies those qualities himself and through this transformational gift, he and Karin will ensure that others have the opportunity to do the same,” said Pulley.