Benefitting Students is Couple’s Passion, Gift Challenges Others to Fund Scholarships
What happens when a small-town girl from Maine, who wants a new and different experience at a big university, comes to Amherst and meets a boy from Denver, who has hitchhiked across the country to get the best education he can afford? In the case of Linda Mitchell Price ’77 (economics) and W. Stuart Price ’79 (political science), they fall in love, get married and set out to accomplish their dreams.
“We met the first week of school at a meeting about Washington, DC, internships,” says Linda, an attorney who now manages all the finances for their family’s investment interests in Tulsa, OK. “We both participated in the program, but at different times,” adds Stuart, a former oil and gas executive who now describes himself as “an investor” in multiple interests. “UMass Amherst gave us so much. We had great professors, mentors, and motivators. It gave us the tools to achieve, and now we are lucky to be able to give back.”
The Prices have pledged to the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences a $50,000 challenge for the Dean’s Opportunity Fund. For every dollar that alumni or friends give to this endowed fund for scholarships, starting now, the Prices will match up to $50,000. With this terrific incentive, SBS is on its way to fulfilling Dean Rifkin’s goal of doubling the fund this year. In this tight economy, it is more important than ever to make more funds available for scholarships. That’s why the Dean—and the Prices—ask all of us to open their hearts and their pocketbooks by contributing to this fund. Every gift, no matter how large or small, matters. Click here to make an online gift now.
“Giving to students is what it’s all about,” says Stuart, who is vice chair of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education that oversees 26 colleges and universities. “Linda and I are strong advocates of total access to higher education. It’s a passion of ours. Everyone should have a chance to attend college. Education unleashes human potential.”
The Prices are well known for their educational philanthropy in Oklahoma, especially at Tulsa Community College, where they were instrumental in the creation of a free tuition/fee plan for high school graduates who live in Tulsa County and maintain good academic standing. The Prices gave the lead gift of $200,000 for a textbook trust that provides books to the scholarship recipients. By offering a challenge grant, they were able to raise millions from the community to ease the burden for students. “Stuart is the best fundraiser I know,” says Linda of his efforts to make this program (and others) happen.
Textbooks costs have increased at more than twice the rate of inflation since 1986, as has tuition. “Anything that can be done to reduce these costs to students is important,” says Stuart, who points to making interactive learning materials available for increasingly tech-savvy students and putting course materials on reserve in the library at no cost to students as other alternatives.
At the University of Tulsa College of Law, the Moot Court Room was named for Stuart who got his law degree there in 1982. The Prices also established an endowed fund for legal research and writing there, and they contribute to an annual fund challenger program. In recognition of their efforts on campus and in the community, the College of Law presented Linda, who attended the law school for a year but received her law degree from Western New England, an honorary degree.
Linda, whose specialty was banking law, worked for the top law firm in Tulsa and led the way for the biggest bank merger in Oklahoma history. “I decided to leave my practice,” she says, “as our family continued to grow (they have four children). Over the years my role has evolved into CFO for our diverse enterprises. We joke that Stuart is the idea guy and I’m the detail person.”
After law school, Stuart became a member of the bar association, but he never practiced law. Instead he went to work for Amerada Hess Corporation in the exploration department and a few years later ventured out on his own into the oil and gas industry. “Our success,” notes Linda, “really comes down to hard work, long hours, the ability to sacrifice—especially when starting out—supportive spouses and the ability to take risk.” Stuart adds, “Remember about success and failure: treat both imposters the same. But we try to do things positively for future generations—names we’ll know and faces we’ll never see.”
The Prices have been very involved in politics. Linda points to those DC internships during UMass Amherst days as sparking their interest. Stuart says, “Linda showed me the way. Her uncle is former Senator George Mitchell (D-Maine), and during our days in Amherst she worked on the Massachusetts Bottle Bill, one of the first in the nation to be passed.” Stuart, who served on Bill Clinton’s transition team for energy, ran for Congress in 1994. Though the run was unsuccessful, “it truly was a great honor,” he says. Stuart has been a delegate to nearly every Democratic Convention since 1984, including this year’s, and the Prices will be in Washington for President-elect Obama’s inauguration.
“We’ve been fortunate in our lives,” says Stuart, who hasn’t forgotten that he worked as a janitor and stocking grocery shelves to earn his tuition. Nor has he forgotten that he had to interrupt his education for a year because of insufficient funds. “Along the way, we’ve met a lot of good people. And if I can throw a special bouquet, I’d like to thank Professor Ralph Whitehead (journalism) whose tremendous positive nature and excitement about participating in life was contagious. He was a major influence. I owe him a lot.”
Linda adds, “UMass Amherst has so much to offer: its beautiful location with four seasons, the diverse faculty and student body, all the great programs. It offered me the chance to be part of a huge university and still form wonderful personal relationships—and I met the person of my dreams.”
December 23, 2008