Skip to main content

Scholarships: Making an impact


Reprinted from the Autumn 2010 ECE department alumni newsletter

Today, more than ever, scholarships have a tremendous impact on students and their families. They can be the deciding factor in whether students are able to begin or continue their education and can impact how much time students can devote to their studies. Scholarships also show students that someone believes in them and their ability to make a difference. Three alumni who have established scholarships that impact the lives of electrical and computer engineering students are Robert Schmahl, Everett Shaffstall and Tom Thomas.

Robert & Joe-Ann Schmahl: Supporting Dreams

The Schmahls felt so strongly about the importance of advanced education as the key to the American dream, that they were involved in establishing not one but two scholarship

Robert Schmahl (BSEE) began his professional career as a digital systems design engineer at Hughes Aircraft Company after graduating from Ohio State in 1961. He held many positions during his 31-year career at Hughes, including senior scientist. Today, he serves as the College of Engineering representative to the Ohio State Alumni Advisory Council, is a current board member of the OSU Orange County/ Inland Empire (CA) Alumni Club, and is a board member of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Society for Information Display. After moving to California, the Schmahls worked with the nearby alumni clubs to start a scholarship for local students. After that scholarship was established, the Schmahls decided they wanted to do more.

“We both believed we must pay back some of the benefits from the lifestyle that we achieved from my education at Ohio State,” Mr. Schmahl said.

Mrs. Schmahl, who never forgot her own childhood struggles, remained committed to guiding and supporting students. Mr. Schmahl believed that the U.S. was not keeping up with the rapidly expanding worldwide technologies and wished to support undergraduate engineering students. In addition, he hoped to provide some incentive and support to former U.S. Veterans. In 2007 the Schmahls established the Robert H. and Joe-Ann Schmahl Engineering Scholarship Fund.

Mrs. Schmahl—a lifelong, avid supporter of the Buckeyes—passed away on April 10, 2007. Mr. Schmahl made a generous donation to the new Ohio Union in her honor. The Union’s Joe-Ann Schmahl Memorial Suite is named after her. Mr. Schmahl talks about naming the Schmahl Suite at the Ohio Union after his late wife in this But for Ohio State video.

Everett Shaffstall: Paying it Forward

Everett Shaffstall (BSEE 1963, MSEE 1963) knows the impact that scholarships have on students’ lives firsthand. In fact, he may not have been able to complete his education if not for the
multiple academic scholarships he received during his time at Ohio State, including the prestigious Benjamin Lamme Scholarship.

After graduation, Mr. Shaffstall worked for Sandia Corporation before joining Hughes Aircraft. During his six years at Hughes, he performed digital analysis and design for satellite, military and commercial applications. After moving to Indianapolis, he started Shaffstall Corporation to manufacture and market products he designed for the graphic arts industry. Today, he serves on the board of Bacompt Systems and as membership chairman of the Arizona Seniors Golf Association.

One of the scholarship award letters Mr. Shaffstall received while at Ohio State included a note about the importance of paying it forward: “We sincerely hope that someday when you are successful you will remember that there are fine men and women like yourself who may need your help.”  And help he did when he established the Everett L. Shaffstall Electrical Engineering Scholarship Fund in 1976.

“I am very appreciative of the help I received and that is why I have established my scholarship fund to help deserving students with their education.”

Tom Thomas: Investing in the Next Generation of Engineers

The scholarships that Tom Thomas (BSEE 1966, MSEE 1966) received while he earned his degrees in electrical engineering at Ohio State had such an impact on him that he still remembers their names more than 40 years later.

Mr. Thomas spent his 35-year career building highly successful computer software and service companies. He has held executive management positions at five firms and has personally managed every functional area within a software/services company. By 1990, he was owner and CEO of Creative Solutions, Inc., which provides a comprehensive suite of PC software  products to more than 75,000 U.S. accounting firms. He sold the company to the Thomson Corporation in 1998 and retired in 1999.

As his career progressed, Mr. Thomas became concerned that there were not enough U.S. students willing to tackle the challenges of earning an engineering degree. He established the Thomas L. Thomas Engineering Scholarship Fund in 2008 to support students who have the ability and drive, but insufficient resources to follow in his footsteps.

“I want to invest in talented students who need financial help and who are going to stay and use those skills here in this country,” Mr. Thomas said. “I really think engineering skills are a vital part of our long-term national security and the country’s progress, and I want to play a small role in encouraging students to pursue engineering dreams.”

Categories: AlumniStudents