President Alexander N. Cartwright and his wife, First Lady Melinda K. Cartwright, arrived at UCF in the middle of a global pandemic, knowing the foreseeable future was going to prove challenging. They knew they wanted to do their part to secure the university’s future.
“Before we officially took the position, we started thinking about what should we do for UCF? What should we do for everybody that’s here?” — President Cartwright
“Before we officially took the position, we started thinking about what should we do for UCF? What should we do for everybody that’s here?” President Cartwright says.
Within the first couple weeks of arriving on campus, the Cartwrights donated $25,000 to emergency relief funds to help immediately, and then pledged an additional $225,000 to the university to provide for the future.
“We gave to the areas that we value most,” Cartwright says, which includes scholarships for first-generation students, as well as STEM research, the humanities, athletics and an unrestricted fund to be used for the university’s greatest needs.
The Cartwrights met at the University of Iowa, where Alex earned a bachelor’s and a doctoral degree in electrical and computer engineering and Melinda earned a bachelor’s in music education before going back to earn a second bachelor’s degree in computer science. Both were first-generation students who received funding through Pell Grants, which are subsidies provided by the U.S. government for students who demonstrate exceptional financial need. That is, until Melinda’s Pell funding ran out, and she was forced to take out student loans, working as a waitress and finding other ways to make ends meet.
“I somehow didn’t qualify, so that’s when I started taking out student loans and working jobs as a waitress and doing whatever I could to try and make it through,” she says. “We hope to take that burden away from other students, so they can focus on their studies.”
“It’s just one small way that we could pay back to future generations what was given to us by people who were generous,” President Cartwright says.