Having worked his way through high school and college and become one of America's most successful businessmen, George Argyros, of Sun Valley, knows the value of education in a young life.
Argyros, 60, a real estate investor, former Seattle Mariners baseball owner and currently CEO of Arnel Development, knows America is rich with Horatio Alger rags-to-riches stories—people who succeed despite long odds.
Military veterans are people who have known adversity.
Through a new scholarship program announced last week, Argyros and his wife, Julia, have funded $5 million of a $10 million college scholarship program specifically targeted to U.S. military veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq since the terrorists attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 on the East Coast.
It's the first national college scholarship program exclusively for veterans who have served honorably in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Argyros revealed the scholarship program Thursday before the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
Those in attendance were Sen. Bob Dole, a combat veteran who said at the press conference, "I know first-hand how important it is to return from combat to find both appreciation and opportunity as you make the transition back to civilian life and plan for your next great life achievement."
The bequest continues a tradition of donating to America's youth by Argyros, who grew up in Pasadena, Calif., and worked his way through high school and Chapman College, graduating in 1959. He went on to become a successful real estate investor and developer.
Last April, Argyros received the Norman Vincent Peale Award given by the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans based in Alexandria, Va. The award is named for Peale, founder of the nonprofit Horatio Alger education association formed in 1947 to honor Americans who have faced challenges and succeeded in the free-enterprise system.
Argyros was uniquely qualified to earn the Peale Award because he had served as president and chairman of the Horatio Alger Association for Distinguished Americans since his induction as a lifetime member in 1993. During his 12 years of involvement with the association, Argyros has taken it in a new direction.
"George has helped lead this association into the direction of awarding nearly $5 million in need-based college scholarships to high school seniors in every state," said Horatio Alger Association Chairman H. Wayne Huizenga back in 2003.
While serving from 2001-2003 as U.S. ambassador to Spain and Andorra during the first term of President George W. Bush, Argyros and his wife were impressed with the courage shown by wounded soldiers they visited at the Rota Naval Air Station in Spain.
The visit inspired the Argyroses to create the new military veteran scholarship fund, which they hope others will help fund as well.
Argyros said, "My wife Julia and I knew we had to do something personally to honor their devotion to the U.S.A. ... We owe our security and our continued freedom to these heroic young men and women."
"The American dream is all about risk, reward, hard work, commitment and dedication," Argyros has said. He has been married to Julia for over 40 years. The couple has three grown children and six grandchildren.
He added, "Fight courageously for the principles you believe in. Use every resource at your command to improve and advance yourself.
"Create better lives for your families, work hard for the sake of your communities and your faith, and make this a better world. Success takes hard work and commitment. Remember that freedom and democracy will survive and prosper only if each of us takes personal responsibility for our actions and ourselves.
"We need to inspire people to reach high and dream big dreams!"
Each year since 1947, 10 outstanding Americans who have overcome adversity and achieved success are honored with the Horatio Alger Award and membership in the association. Among Idaho residents who are lifetime members of the Horatio Alger Association are Argyros, Harry Rinker and Craig McCaw of Ketchum, and Boise's Warren McCain.
Rinker, from Newport Beach, Calif., is owner of the Orange County-based Rinker Company specializing in retail, commercial, industrial and planned residential development. McCain, 80, reared in Payette, is retired board chairman of Albertsons' grocery chain. McCaw, 55, a Washington state native, created McCaw Communications, the largest cellular company in the world when he sold to AT&T for $11.5 billion in 1994.
The Horatio Alger of Distinguished Americans Inc. Military Veterans Scholarship Program seeks to provide financial assistance to men and women who have served under the U.S. military in Afghanistan and Iraq since Sept. 11, 2001.
To be eligible, you must: (1) ave a U.S. citizenship or be in the process of obtaining citizenship, (2) have financial need (3) have a fully honorable discharge, (4) and have intent to pursue a first bachelor's degree at an accredited U.S. college or university.
Application deadline for the 2005 scholarships is Sept. 1, 2005. Each scholarship award is $5,000. You must maintain a 2.0 GPA to keep your scholarship. Winners will be announced this fall. Their names will be posted on the organization Web site, horatioalger.org.