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EMU Foundation

Commuter StudentsMaking the Commute a Little Easier

by Jeff Samoray

As an Eastern undergraduate who drove from his job in downtown Detroit to night classes in Ypsilanti, Jeff Connelly (BA71) remembers the trials and tribulations commuter students face.

“As a working parent, I just couldn’t take day classes,” says Connelly, a retired oil and gas executive who lives in Houston. “I lived in Milford and drove about 50 miles to work. At the end of my work day, I got on the freeway and went to my classes at Eastern. Then I headed home to Milford.

Sometimes, to help shorten the commute, I slept in the basement of a relative who lived in Wyandotte. My commute made for some long days. I didn’t get to see my family as much as I would have liked.”

Knowing that many of today’s Eastern students face similar work and commuting circumstances, Connelly decided to extend a helping hand. In 2006, he made a generous $9,000 gift to create the Connelly Scholarship for Commuter Students. The funds provide an expendable scholarship and a permanent endowed scholarship that makes awards to EMU Commuter Student Association members each year. About ten students each year receive a scholarship award. Nearly 19,500 of EMU’s current student enrollment of 23,000 are commuters.

“The scholarship helps commuter students pay for tuition and other college expenses,” says Connelly, a former member of the EMU Foundation’s Board of Trustees. “My commute to work and class was tough, but I was fortunate because my employer paid my tuition. I couldn’t have attended college otherwise. I received more financial help than many students do today. That’s why I feel so good about giving back to Eastern.”

Connelly says his experience as a working student—coupled with his Eastern coursework—gave him an early career boost.

“Students who work and attend class have some advantages over their non-working peers,” he says. “I had opportunities to apply what I was learning to my job on a daily basis. That really enhanced my professional opportunities. By the time I graduated from Eastern, I was well on my way to a rewarding career.”

Connelly continues to contribute funds to the scholarship annually. To date, his scholarship gifts total $89,000.

“I started making financial gifts to Eastern almost as soon as I graduated,” Connelly says. “Three of my four sons are also college graduates, and I encourage them to give back as well. People helped me attend college—how can I not help others achieve their goals and dreams?”

EMU Foundation is located at 112 Welch Hall, 850 W. Cross St., Ypsilanti, MI, USA 48197 Phone: 734.484.1322