Nolans' gift endows scholarship fund for veterans at Johnson

Over the past nine years, Cornell Trustee Emeritus Peter Nolan ’80, MBA ’82, and his wife, Stephanie Nolan ’84, have given nearly $2 million to help the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management support U.S. military veterans seeking an MBA.

Now, with an $8 million investment to establish the Peter and Stephanie Nolan Veterans Professional Scholarship Fund, they are ensuring that generations of U.S. military veterans enrolled as Johnson MBA students will continue to receive that support.

The investment comprises $6 million from the Nolans and an additional $2 million in current-use funds from the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business challenge. It is the largest gift to date under this new challenge. The challenge funds will provide scholarship support of $400,000 annually for the next five years, after which the endowment income will support veteran scholarships in perpetuity.

The Nolans attribute their support of veterans to their desire to repay a debt of gratitude to those who have served in the military. “It was the right thing to do, after they have put their lives at risk to protect freedom around the world,” Peter Nolan said.

Veterans also bring a broad perspective to the classroom and their studies, he said. “During their years of service, military veterans have traveled across the globe and had life-changing experiences vastly different from those of their academic peers. They have a world view that few other students have,” Nolan said.

Endowing the veterans scholarship is a “win-win” both for veterans and for Cornell, Nolan believes. “Veterans are proven leaders already, and their leadership skills are critical to their successful completion of their MBAs and subsequent careers as business leaders. Veterans with MBAs will be the first ones employers will hire when they are looking for leaders,” he said.

The endowment fund will provide an enduring source of support for U.S. veterans, “differentiating Cornell from its peers and giving Johnson and its graduate veterans a distinct competitive advantage,” he added.

Thanking the Nolans for their generosity, Mark W. Nelson, the Anne and Elmer Lindseth Dean and professor of accounting at Johnson, said: “I am enormously pleased and grateful that this gift will allow us to strengthen Johnson’s ongoing commitment to military veterans. We are fortunate to have champions in Peter and Stephanie not just for Cornell, but for the men and women who have served our country and who enrich the Cornell experience with their leadership, determination and achievement.”

The Nolans’ veteran scholarships have already had a lasting effect, not just on the 64 U.S. veterans who have received this scholarship support, but on Johnson’s ability to compete for veteran applicants with other top business schools. Johnson participates in the Yellow Ribbon program for its residential MBA students, essentially doubling the impact of each scholarship dollar they are granted. Currently, 43 U.S. military veterans are enrolled in Johnson’s residential MBA programs, representing 11 percent of the 386 domestic students in the classes of 2017 and 2018. Another 38 active, reservist or veteran military personnel enrolled in Johnson’s executive MBA programs across the U.S. expand the Johnson veteran’s community further.

 “Johnson is committed to supporting veteran students intellectually and socially as well as financially,” Nelson said. He noted that the Johnson Association of Veterans is the largest student military veteran affinity group at Cornell, connecting Johnson military veterans with each other and with other Cornell veterans.

The endowed scholarship fund will solidify Johnson’s place among elite business schools that actively recruit and support military veterans, Nelson said. He hopes to raise another $4 million in veteran scholarship funds to further help meet the financial needs of Johnson MBA veteran students.

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John Carberry