Cooke Foundation Awards FIU $2.5 Million Scholarship Gift to Benefit Nontraditional and Veteran/Military Students

Florida International University has received a $2.5 million gift from the George and Bernice Cooke Scholarship Foundation for Women to establish an endowment to provide scholarships to nontraditional and veteran/military FIU students. Joanne and Douglas Heydon, Cooke Foundation trusteesJoanne and Douglas Heydon, Cooke Foundation trustees

More than $1.87 million of the gift is for The George and Bernice Cooke Scholarship Endowment, which will award scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students who demonstrate financial need (based on the FAFSA application) and have a minimum 3.0 GPA. While any student may be eligible for the scholarship, preference will be given to nontraditional students (students with delayed enrollment into higher education; part-time students; students that work full-time; students with dependents other than a spouse; students who are single parents, etc.) and students with a demonstrated interest in women’s issues. 

“Due to the pandemic, there has been a record number of students in need, with non-traditional students especially at risk, which can deter them from focusing on their studies,” said Laura Castillo, senior director of Enrollment Planning and Scholarship Operations. “This scholarship ensures FIU can support them on their journeys to graduation.” 

In addition, $625,000 will establish The George and Bernice Cooke Scholarship Endowment for Military and Veteran Students, which will assist veterans and military-affiliated students. 

“We are excited that this scholarship will alleviate economic challenges for our military and veteran students and ultimately increase their retention and graduation rates,” said Anthony DeSantis, assistant vice president for student affairs, who leads the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs. Joanne and Douglas Heydon, the trustees of the Cooke Foundation, directed the gift to FIU.

 “We are honored and humbled to carry out the Cooke’s legacy to help women who have not completed their college education,” Joanne Heydon said. “Bernice Cooke was a longtime advocate of advancing the status of women, and it’s long been proven that higher education is the most effective means to achieve that.” 

“The foundation has worked with other higher education institutions, and we know that FIU is an ideal home for this gift,” said Douglas Heydon. “We are pleased to also assist those who have selflessly given so much to our nation by serving in the military.” The first round of Cooke scholarships was awarded to students in the Spring 2022 semester.

The Cooke Foundation gift benefits FIU’s Next Horizon campaign, which is advancing student success and research excellence at the university. “We are honored that Joanne and Douglas Heydon decided FIU would be an appropriate institution to perpetuate the Cookes’ legacy of helping students achieve their dreams,” said Howard R. Lipman, CEO of the FIU Foundation. “This transformational gift will provide access to an FIU education to scores of outstanding students.”