Recently, after more than a decade of handing out achievement awards to outstanding chemistry students and handing financial contributions in to the Highlands Foundation, Professor Emeritus Dr. Robert Amai’s scholarship fund reached (then exceeded) the magic sum of $10,000.

“It took 14 years,” Dr. Amai confessed, “because we kept giving money out then putting money in, so it grew slowly.”

At the $10,000 level an unrestricted fund”turns into an endowed fund, meaning the corpus (literally, the “body” of a trust) is held in perpetuity. Along with dozens of endowments managed by the Highlands Foundation and totaling $6.5 million, Dr. Amai’s fund is pooled and invested. Each year the Foundation finance office determines each fund’s allocation – that is, the award amount based on an average of the fund’s three-year growth.

Every endowed scholarship and fund carries a story with it. In 2001, Dr. Amai received a $1,000 gift to the chemistry department from a former student, John Cole. Immediately, Dr. Amai and others in the department started making end-of year recognition awards for outstanding students. Dr. Amai added to the fund, inching towards the $10,000 goal. Other faculty, particularly from the sciences, started contributing.

“Then the Las Vegas Optic ran a story on the fund, and suddenly all sorts of people were mailing in contributions,” Dr. Amai said.

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