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Renewable Energy Visionary Provides Scholarship Support to School of Public Affairs

Kyrie Bannar

In June 2000, George Schaefer, SPA/BA ’72, and his wife, Lois, Kogod/BS ’72, learned that Walter Broadnax was appointed to be the new dean of the School of Public Affairs. They were thrilled. George and Walter had known each other for more than 25 years from their graduate student days at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.

To honor their friend’s appointment, the couple decided to endow a scholarship. “At the time… there were not any endowed funds in the School of Public Affairs dedicated solely for undergraduate student scholarship support,” said George. “We saw the Lois and George Schaefer Scholarship as a way to provide lasting support to students at the university and expand the tradition of endowed graduate student scholarships and prizes in SPA.”

Since its inception, the Lois and George Schaefer Scholarship has provided scholarships to six SPA students, and 11 additional endowed scholarships for undergraduate students have been established at SPA by other donors. While any SPA undergraduate student with high academic achievement and financial need is eligible for the Schaefer scholarship, Lois pushed for an equality requirement. “I wanted to make sure that the scholarship funds were distributed evenly between males and females, so I encouraged a clause that calls for the scholarship to alternate each year between the genders,” she said.

Establishing the scholarship has helped the Schaefers stay connected – both to AU and to their own college memories. “As I receive updates from the Schaefer scholarship recipients, I am amazed at how similar their AU experiences are to mine. We were undergraduate students from 1968 to 1972, which was a very politically active time – like today – with the Vietnam War and the Nixon Administration. AU students have always been known for their high levels of political engagement. That has remained constant since we were students,” said George.

While an AU student, George maximized the opportunities Washington had to offer. He worked on the 1968 presidential campaign of Governor Nelson Rockefeller (R-NY) prior to attending AU and served as an intern for Senator Charles Goodell (R-NY) and the National Capital Planning Commission in Washington, D.C. while attending classes.

During his junior and senior years, George served as a teaching assistant for the Introduction to American Government class under Bruce Norton. One of his fellow teaching assistants was Corneilius M. Kerwin, SPA/BA ’71, who is now AU’s 14th president.

George credits his AU experiences with helping shape his professional journey. After first meeting Lois in a microeconomics class during their senior year at AU, George continued his studies at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School, where he earned a master’s in public administration. A month later, George and Lois were married in 1974 and launched their careers in the D.C. area – he in the energy industry and she in the Division of Workers’ Compensation of the U.S. Department of Labor.

As a professional in the energy sector in the 1970s, George was among the pioneers who began conceptualizing renewable energy as a viable, environmentally sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. Long before renewable energy became vogue, he co-authored a book in the late seventies entitled Biomass as a Non-Fossil Energy Resource.

George’s hopes for the profitability of renewable energy were realized four years ago when he launched a start-up company that produced ethanol from corn, which subsequently was sold to a larger corporation. Earlier this year, George was named CFO at New Jersey-based Soltage, Inc., a full-service renewable energy company that develops and operates solar photovoltaic energy stations across the United States.

Despite his significant professional achievements, George says his proudest accomplishment has been raising his two daughters, who are now both in college, and the recent celebration of his 35th wedding anniversary to Lois.