May 19, 2004 1 min read

Community Chest

Over the course of his 84-year life, Jack Kent Cooke worked his way up from door-to-door encyclopedia salesman to become one of the world’s best-known professional-sports and media moguls. The late owner of the Washington Redskins football team once compared his life to an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, only better.

Were he alive today, Mr. Cooke probably would have admired the peculiar educational journeys of students such as Tamara D. Eskue, 21, a recipient of a newly established scholarship from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

Ms. Eskue is one of 27 community college students who will receive scholarships worth up to $30,000 a year from the Lansdowne, Va., foundation to continue their studies at four-year colleges.

Her trek toward college was indirect yet purposeful. A native of Ravenna, Texas, Ms. Eskue once competed in a rodeo (in women’s barrel- riding) while attending Grayson County College in nearby Denison, earning a 3.87 grade point average.

At first, she dreamed of becoming a nurse, until a cardiologist she knew advised her to think about going to medical school instead. After finishing at Grayson, she now plans to major in biology at Austin College, in Sherman, Texas, with the help of Cooke Foundation funding.

This is the first year the foundation has devoted scholarships exclusively to students at two-year schools; previously it awarded money to undergraduates in both two-year and four-year institutions. The 27 foundation awards, announced May 3, are worth a total of $1.4 million. Cooke Foundation officials say their goal is to encourage four-year colleges to give more serious consideration to students from two-year colleges—and to encourage other private institutions to help those students.

“At the top of community colleges, there are students with tremendous ability,” said Joshua S. Wyner, the chief program officer for the foundation. “We believe we can help those students.”

Plenty of those students are ready to make the jump to four-year schools, said Ms. Eskue, who knows something about life transitions.

“It takes more guts to be a bull-rider,” said Ms. Eskue, who, in her day as a rodeo participant, generally stuck to quarter horses. “But it takes a lot of strength and determination to be a student.”

—Sean Cavanagh

A version of this article appeared in the May 19, 2004 edition of Education Week