Opening Doors with Scholarships

Mahershala Ali '96 laughs with students during an HP reception.Every year, Saint Mary’s College welcomes a student body that honors the diversity of our nation. Our fundamental mission is to provide access to education for dedicated students from traditionally underrepresented groups in higher education. Alumni, parents, and friends of the College have donated generously to establish endowments, scholarships, and programs to support our diversity and inclusion initiatives.

The High Potential Program (HP) program was developed in 1973 to help foster student success in first-generation and low-income students as they transition from high school to college. It enables HP graduate student counselors, staff, and peer mentors to work together with HP students to develop their academic and leadership skills, connect them to the college community, and guide them through their four years on campus. This program at Saint Mary’s has steered thousands of students through college life and launched them into the world as entrepreneurs, volunteers, and leaders.

Several donors contributed to the Moonlight Scholarship inspired by actor and alumnus Mahershala Ali ’96 (pictured, center, with HP students on campus) who benefited from the HP program as a student 20 years ago. Eric Flowers MBA ’04 says he gave to the Moonlight Scholarship because “it was in harmony with his views and thinking.” Eric also established the Ramsell Corporation Endowed Scholarship to attract African American students to the School of Economics and Business Administration (SEBA). “As an MBA student in the early 2000s, I was struck by the quality of the education but the lack of diversity, both in the student body as well as the faculty. There is a great deal of potential out there and I want to open doors and help people achieve their dreams,” Eric said. He also is a member of the Board of Trustees and serves on the SEBA Advisory Board.

Ruben Castellon ’85 began donating annually to scholarships shortly after graduation. Recently, his appreciation for his Saint Mary’s education and the sacrifice and support of his parents to send him here, prompted Ruben to create an endowed scholarship “to honor them while they are alive and begin helping students sooner rather than later. I want to give younger underserved people an education so they can make a difference,” he said.

Odell Johnson ’58 was taught from a young age to give and help out. It was a priority for his parents that their 10 children support their community despite their own humble beginnings. Odell graduated from Saint Mary’s and eventually returned as dean of students, followed by a lifelong career in higher education. He and his wife, Virginia, have given to various scholarship funds to support low-income students since 1997 and to the SMC Fund since 1985. A few years ago they established an endowed scholarship that will serve students in perpetuity. Alumni Daniel Baradat ’72 and Michael A. Kelly ’73, students when Odell was dean, learned of his scholarship and have also given generously to support current and future students. Odell said, “So many people have helped me over the years; it would be a travesty not to help others.”

To learn how you can support student access and success, visit or call (925) 631-4328.