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Around the Columns

Brazeals get to know scholarship recipients

Brazeal scholarship

Jim and Cathy Brazeal fund scholarships for minority students. When in Columbia, they enjoy taking students out for dinner. Shown here at a downtown restaurant are, from left, Jennifer Wesley, Brian Gaffigan, Jim Brazeal, Cathy Brazeal and Nick Cobblah. Photo by Nicholas Benner

When Jim and Cathy Brazeal met with MU Chancellor Brady Deaton in 2003, they indicated their wish to develop a scholarship that would attract high-achieving and diverse students to Mizzou. “We hoped to bring in the cream-of-the-crop academic prospects from underrepresented groups,” says Jim Brazeal, BA ’67, MBA ’69.

Based on the four Brazeal Scholars now on campus, their vision is taking shape. 

Out of that visit came the Brazeal Honors College Endowed Diversity Scholarship, a four-year award granted to one high-ability minority student each year. In addition to covering tuition, room, board and books, the scholarship provides entrance into the Discovery Fellows research program and covers the cost of an MU study abroad program. 

“We wanted the scholarship to be as good as anything at the University of Missouri,” Jim Brazeal says. “We wanted it to be competitive with any full-ride scholarship out there.”

The scholarship has provided senior double-major Nick Cobblah the ability to do research in both of his areas of interest — English and physics. It has allowed freshman Brian Gaffigan to work on a research project that is using lasers to find cancer cells. It paved the way for senior Catherine Newhouse to spend part of last summer in Rwanda, where she conducted research and wrote articles for Christianity Today. It has given sophomore Jennifer Wesley the chance to work as a neuroscience research assistant. 

This year marks the first time the scholarship has a full contingent of four recipients on campus. That means a full table when the scholars and the Brazeals meet for dinner, which they do at least once a semester, adding a personal touch to the scholarship.

“It tells them who the Brazeals are,” Cathy Brazeal says of the gatherings. “It shows them that we aren’t just someone paying for their tuition who does not think about them.”

The dinners allow the Brazeals and the students a chance to discuss classwork and research, while also catching up on other aspects of their lives.

“It’s meaningful to me.” Newhouse says of the unique interaction. “When you first meet them, it’s like ‘here are the strangers who decided they wanted to support all the crazy things I’m doing in my life.’ They are very welcoming and make you feel at home.”

“It’s important that they know we are just average people,” Jim Brazeal says.

While they may be average people, the Brazeals are providing above-average experiences to some impressive students.