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Butlers, Boehnes Announce $2 Million Gift to NKU

Bill and Sue Butler, and Rich and Lisa Boehne have donated $2 million to Northern Kentucky University, it was announced Monday.

Each couple contributed $1 million each, and the funds will be used for a new LIFT Scholars Program, the university said. The funds were provided to the university through Horizon Community Funds of Northern Kentucky by way of the Rich and Lisa Boehne Fund and the Eagle One Fund (Butler).

LIFT stands for lifelong investment and future transformation. 

The program focuses on NKU students who have demonstrated academic potential but are at risk of not completing their degrees. The university will match the $2 million with other gifts from the community. Once realized, the program will have $4 million to support student success.

“Sue and I feel strongly that quality education is a foundation for a successful life," Bill Butler said. He is the chairman of Covington-based Corporex. "These LIFT awards will cover the unmet need for hundreds of low-income and first-generation students, many of whom might not otherwise enroll at NKU. By structuring it as a dollar-for-dollar challenge grant, we hope to incentivize others to join us and the Boehnes, to maximize the outcome for Northern Kentucky students.”

The LIFT program will award $5,000 to students who demonstrate a significant financial need and/or are the first in their family to attend college; however, it goes beyond financial scholarships. It also requires students to engage with University Connect and Persist (UCAP)– which is dedicated to helping students through challenges that threaten college completion. The LIFT program provides resources at all levels, from outlining goals with advisors to attending group meetings with other UCAP students.

“The wrap around services built into the LIFT Scholars Program really spoke to me," said Rich Boehne, the chairman of E.W. Scripps Company, and an NKU alumnus. "NKU serves students from diverse backgrounds, some are first generation or working full time, who may not have the support to navigate the college experience. The LIFT program not only addresses the financial challenges of college, but it works to ensure no one slips through the cracks.”

Since it was established a decade ago, UCAP has facilitated the relationships between students and advisors to provide a sounding board and options when they have issues. LIFT is one of many programs that tie the UCAP connections to scholarships.

“NKU must be a student ready university that creates support systems to help our students when obstacles arise in their path. Quite often, it’s an unexpected expense that may mean they no longer have the funds to pay their bills. We cannot let this deter our students from achieving their educational goals, so they have the tools and experience to build a meaningful career and lead fulfilling lives,” said NKU President Ashish Vaidya. “We could not achieve this without our generous supporters, like the Butlers and Boehnes, to establish programs that will truly make an impact on hundreds of lives.”

The university unveiled Further, Faster: The Campaign for NKU in May. It has raised nearly $49 million toward the $75 million goal. More than 12,000 donors have contributed nearly 34,000 gifts. The Boehnes and Butlers’ gifts were made to the Horizon Community Fund, which was established in 2017 to pool resources to make a difference in northern Kentucky. They designated their contribution to NKU because of the essential role it plays in the region.

“This is one of the largest commitments the Horizon Community Funds has made which I hope will inspire others to contribute to LIFT. Any match goes to support our future workforce and will help elevate our region. This is what northern Kentucky leaders envisioned when they established our community foundation, and we are proud to play a role in supporting NKU,” said Nancy Grayson, president of Horizon Community Funds.

The LIFT Scholars Program is anticipated to begin taking student applications for the next academic year. 

-Staff report