Chicago, IL,
12:55 PM

The Gift of Education

Why President Maimon and Dr. Mort Maimon Pay it Forward

For Elaine P. Maimon, president of Governors State University, and her husband, Dr. Mort Maimon, giving back is not only an act of compassion but a moral imperative inextricably tied with a sense of civic duty.

“It helps the nation when you invest in human capital … a democracy depends on an educated electorate,” President Maimon said.

This year, the couple has pledged $50,000 to the Presidential Scholarship program, and they are hoping to see their donation matched dollar for dollar by other donors.

“We would like to establish an endowment. The whole point is to grow the number (of students who receive the scholarship,)” she said.

At present, two incoming GSU students will receive a four-year scholarship to the university through the scholarship fund. The program targets high-achieving low-income students and assists recipients with tuition and fees. The scholarship also includes a $1200 per year allowance for books.

A recent study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics illustrates the focused need for educators to provide access to higher education for economically disadvantaged students. According to the study, “In 2013, the immediate college enrollment rate for high school completers from high-income families (80 percent) was 31 percentage points higher than the rate for those from low-income families (49 percent).”

A 2014 paper from the White House, titled “Increasing College Opportunity for Low-Income Students,” talks about a college education as “…one of the surest ways into the middle class.” The paper cites studies from universities, government agencies, private foundations, and independent researchers, and they all say the same thing: low-income students need access to the same tools and opportunities as their high-income peers in order to succeed.

In her eight years as university president, Elaine Maimon and her husband have donated over $100,000 to the GSU Promise Scholarship. This year’s donation and match challenge are just another example of the couple’s commitment to opening up access to higher education for all students.

Their philanthropy comes from the heart.

Elaine Maimon was raised in Philadelphia. A talented and driven student, she graduated as valedictorian of her high school class. Her mother (Gertrude Plaskow), who had been widowed nearly a decade prior, proudly listened from a hospital bed as Elaine practiced her graduation speech. Gertrude never saw her daughter graduate. She was too ill to attend the ceremony, and two weeks later, she passed away.

The University of Philadelphia offered a full tuition scholarship to the top student of every class, but with no parental support, Elaine needed more.

“I had a full tuition scholarship, but without my mother … I wrote to the University of Pennsylvania and told them about my situation, and they increased my scholarship from covering not only tuition and fees, but to cover full room and board and a stipend. So, I will always be grateful to the great philanthropists of University of Pennsylvania, because they took me in.”

She completed her degree, earning a Bachelor of Arts in English, and she went on to obtain her Masters and Doctorate degrees, as well.

“I believe so strongly in paying it forward,” President Maimon said. “We have cosmic gratitude for what we’ve been able to achieve in life,” Dr. Maimon added. “We are parts of that immensity we call existence. We want to be part of improving existence. We don’t want simply to be spectators hoping for the best. To the extent we can, we want to help add value to life. Being participants has enriched our lives. Our contribution to scholarships is an expression of gratitude that we have been allowed to be active in helping others to achieve the best promise that life has to offer.”

“Governors State University is not an ivory tower,” President Maimon said. “It is a public square, a public square with really high standards of excellence. It is the agora that Socrates walked in. Education is a part of citizenship, and we are partners with the State in terms of creating an educated citizenship.”