Paying it Forward Through Scholarships

Authored By: Mamisoa Knutson 01/31/2020

Jim ClausenWithout an anonymous scholarship he received in high school, Jim Clausen would not have been able to attend college.

Originally from Owatonna, Minn., Jim was able to leave and attend college at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities because of a generous donation. College tuition at the time of his start was $400 annually, but growing up in a poor family and despite working multiple jobs, the cost was still too high for him to be able to attend. His life changed when the Owatonna Foundation contacted him about an anonymous source who wanted to fund his education with a scholarship for tuition and books. He gladly accepted. Strong grades would allow Jim to keep the scholarship for all four years.  

When Jim graduated from college, he started a 32-year career at IBM. He advanced to management positions in his tenure and when he retired, he was inspired to help college students fund their education.

“Somebody paid it forward to me and I want to give back,” says Jim. And he’s been able to give back in multiple ways. At University of Minnesota Rochester (UMR), Jim funds two scholarships: the Jim and Sue Clausen UMR Scholarship and the Jim and Sue Clausen Health Care Scholarship. Jim also gives to the University of Minnesota Twin Cities College of Science and Engineering, a program he is passionate about because it prepared him for his career at IBM.

As a retiree since 1997, Jim is heavily involved in volunteering at UMR and within the Rochester community. When UMR was first established, Jim was hired on contract to help put together an early development program. He’s served as the President of the Greater Rochester Advocates for Universities and Colleges (GRAUC) in the late 1990s/early 2000s and is a member of UMR's Volunteer Campaign Committee which advises Chancellor Carrell and Marco Lanz, Director of Development and Alumni Relationships on development-related matters. 

“I am extremely grateful for Jim and his dedication and passion to the innovative work that UMR is doing,” says Chancellor Carrell. “Without donors like Jim, access to quality health care education would be more challenging for our students. We continually work towards removing barriers and scholarship funds are extremely helpful in achieving this.”

Jim understands the important work that UMR is doing for the Rochester community and has a desire to see UMR succeed. “Chancellor Carrell is doing a good job of setting the direction for UMR and encouraging scholarships for the health sciences,” he says. “Donors are interested in seeing students succeed, especially in health sciences in a community like Rochester.” 

Jim and his wife Sue are excited to continue to provide scholarships for UMR students with the hope that the students, like he has been able to, can one day pay it forward.