ORU students

Crusader Scholarship: Making A Way for Today’s ORU Students

By Jenna Rozanski ’21, ’23-M.A. 

The Crusader Scholarship Fund has supported over 500 students in their pursuit of a Spirit-empowered education at ORU. Alumni Jim Stovall ’81 and Dave Crowell ’80, ’81-MBA reveal how this scholarship has impacted its founders and recipients over the past 35 years, and they share their heart to personally connect with a new generation that will carry the Crusader Scholarship into the future. But first, they tell the story of how it all started… 

Rewind to the night before Crowell’s wedding. Crowell and his former wingmates—the Crusaders—stayed up to talk well into the night and asked themselves one simple, unexpected question: “What can we do to help ORU?”

From this conversation, the idea for the Crusader Scholarship was born as a common mission that would keep these friends united far beyond their time at ORU. The purpose of this scholarship would be to aid ORU students with financial need who have a clear vision for their lives and are committed to pursuing their passion to make a difference and give back to their community.

Crowell recalls that “we started with nothing,” and it took over a year to get organized. They formed a 501(c)(3) with the help of fellow Crusader Rob Campbell ’81 and began by awarding five small scholarships to students who were at risk of being de-enrolled. They eventually streamlined the process by establishing an endowment at ORU.

The impact of the Crusader Scholarship has proven far greater than financial. As Stovall affirms, “It’s more than just the money.” It is about the connection the Crusaders have built with each other and with the students.

The Crusader Scholarship “has kept us together,” reflects Crowell. “You always say you’re going to stay in touch, but without this, I don’t know that we would. It keeps you connected to the university.” Further, they have had the opportunity to connect with some of their recipients who are actively making a difference in the world as ORU alumni. Stovall shares two surprising encounters…

The first encounter occurred while Stovall was attending a film premiere with his wife, Crystal (Smith ’81). In a speech before the showing, the filmmaker claimed that no one would be in attendance that night if not for a certain someone in the room. He related the day a check showed up in his mailbox that enabled him to stay enrolled at ORU. The Stovalls sat in awe as it dawned on them that the filmmaker was referring to the impact of the Crusader Scholarship on his life and career.

Stovall’s second encounter involves another one of his passions that he supports at ORU: developing students as entrepreneurs. This led to the founding of the Stovall Center for Entrepreneurship. Dr. Kevin Schneider ’03, ’05-MBA, a two-year recipient of the Crusader Scholarship, initially served as Executive Director and had the opportunity to invest in students’ futures alongside Stovall because the Crusaders first invested in him.

The need for scholarships like the Crusader Scholarship will only continue to increase. Stovall knows that student loan debt has increased dramatically in the past 35 years. He discloses that when they started, a $4,000-$5,000 student loan debt was astronomical, but now they are coming across six-figure numbers. There is an even greater financial need for international students, as they are not eligible for federal aid. The Crusader Scholarship has successfully addressed these concerns for decades by investing in students’ futures, but they do not want to stop there. They are extending the invitation for other alumni to join in this life-changing experience.

Stovall and Crowell want more ORU alumni to get involved with the Crusader Scholarship. Stovall expresses that it is not just about donations; it is about the relationship between those who commit to making a difference through the scholarship and the recipients.

In addition, Stovall and Crowell hope to see other groups of alumni follow in their footsteps and establish scholarships or support projects at ORU that align with each group’s passions. Crowell encourages other alumni who “want to stay together, stay connected, and have the same vision” to act on that vision and remain consistent.

“I think people are under the impression that it takes a lot more than it does to make an impact. If somebody… could save (about) $80 a month, and at the end of the year they’ve got $1,000, that’ll give one kid a scholarship that’s meaningful,” Stovall maintains. “That’s kind of where we started, and then it grew.”

Stovall, Crowell, and the rest of the Crusaders are proof positive that making a lasting impact only requires consistency and commitment—and the fruit is seen through their own friendship and in the lives of the students they have supported.   

To learn more about the Crusaders’ mission and how to get involved, please contact the ORU Development office at development@oru.edu or 918.495.7220.

Another way to make a life-changing impact on ORU students’ lives is by supporting one of the Quest Scholarships. The International Quest Scholarship provides much-needed aid to international students, while the Quest First Scholarship changes the trajectory of entire families’ lives by providing financial aid for students who will be the first in their family to graduate with a bachelor's degree. 

Make a gift today

You can also set up a Donor-Funded or Endowed Scholarship at ORU. Contact the ORU Development office at development@oru.edu or 918.495.7220 for more information.

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