Returning the favor

Fred and Esther Stiers created a scholarship for engineering students in reflection of their own time at K-State

“When I wrote that check for tuition out of my meager checking account I remember wondering whether I was doing the right thing,” Fred Stiers said. “K-State, in its size and environment, seemed as foreign to me as if I had gone to another country, but if I was going to college I wanted the effort to lead to something significant.”

Since that frugal first semester 43 years ago, Fred Stiers can still recall the financial hurdles he faced early in his college career. His own experiences inspired him and his wife, Esther, to return the favor by creating a scholarship for students enrolled in the College of Engineering.

“We decided we wanted to help young engineering students who had already chosen K-State to get their degree and needed financial help in their sophomore through senior years, just as I did,” Stiers said. “We hope this assistance produces some notable engineers who otherwise might not have made it.”

Despite the financially-tight lives the Stiers lived early in their college careers, recalling fond memories of their early years together came easily. This included stories of life without a phone or television, 50-cent pitcher nights in Aggieville and spending time at the student union to see second-run movies on nights where admission was 25 cents.

“We were perpetually tight on money, but we had both grown up that way and never felt it was a particular hardship. We still laugh about some of the ways we got by on the little money we had,” Stiers said. “I remember Esther buying a pair of dated saddle shoes at a sidewalk sale downtown for 25 cents, which she wore almost exclusively for two years until I told her we were doing well enough financially for her to buy a decent pair of shoes. I was sick of seeing her in the saddle shoes.”

A large contributor toward Stiers’ successful career in the energy industry was his ability to stay in school and get his degree when he received the Associated General Contractors scholarship his sophomore year. The scholarship opened doors to opportunities to work with prestigious companies and people all around the world. Stiers says that he is proud to say that his education at K-State never once left him feeling inadequate against all the challenges he faced in his career.

 “Giving back through philanthropy is something I was taught growing up. I saw my parent’s give their time and what limited money they had to help others,” Stiers said. “Such giving is an appropriate way of saying thank you for the many blessings each of us have been given through our lives.”

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