Against her parents' best advice, Alexa Vikel (left)tried life as a "grown up" without the benefit of a college education. "After all, " she recalled, "I was 18 and thought I knew more than they did."
Working 60 hours a week and still "barely getting by" convinced her that college had merit, after all. So Vikel followed her mother from Texas to Davenport and enrolled at St. Ambrose University to pursue a degree in business management in January 2009.
"It was the best decision I have made to date," she said.
Mike Humes '69 understands. He worked 60-hour weeks himself after graduating from Rock Island High School. But after he punched out following his weeknight shifts as a spot welder at International Harvester, Humes would make his way to St. Ambrose for classes from 8 a.m. to noon.
"And then," he said, "I would go home, study, go to bed, get up and be at IH by eleven to do it all over again. Weekends, I pumped gas. I was tired. I was tired a lot."
Now 65 and retired from a successful business career as founder of Mutual Med, Inc., Humes still feels a keen sense of pride in his hard-earned St. Ambrose education. Yet one thing makes him prouder. That's when members of the Mike and Mary Humes Scholars program collect St. Ambrose degrees of their own, then move on to "become productive, responsible adults."
Chief among the reasons Humes and his wife, Mary, (right) established the need-based scholarship program in 2002 is that jobs like those he leaned on to work his way through school aren't nearly as available today. They didn't want to see a lack of money stand between a willing student and success.
"Students don't have to be getting straight A's," said Humes, a member of the SAU Board of Trustees. "But good kids doing their best to get an education who, for whatever reason, run out of money, we want to help."
Vikel was preparing to withdraw from St. Ambrose in fall 2010 because her mother had lost her job and Vikel lost access to student loans because she lacked proof of parental employment.
"Then I got news that I received the Humes Scholarship," Vikel said. "I cannot even put into words how wonderful that blessing was. My mom and I probably cried for an hour because we were so happy."
With a big assist from the Humes Scholars program, which has helped 25 to 40 Ambrose students each year over the past decade, Vikel expects to graduate next December. Beyond that, she hopes to enroll in the St. Ambrose MBA program.
And beyond that? Well, Vikel doesn't know where she is headed, but said she plans to look back by giving back. She hopes to someday endow a scholarship program of her own. "Like Mr. and Mrs. Humes believed in me to help me live out my dreams, I want to do the same for someone in the future," she said.
Humes likes hearing that "pay it forward" attitude. "That makes me feel as good about what we're doing as anything," he said.
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