CEO’s salary helps fund scholarship program

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce
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“I had some folks looking out for me when I was coming
through, and now it’s my turn,” Mike Petters says. Courtesy HII

Single mom Celeste Armstrong will be able to save on the cost of her 4-year-old son’s preschool program, thanks to a $3,000 scholarship from the Huntington Ingalls Industries Scholarship Fund.

“This came at the right time,” says Armstrong who works in the company’s Newport News Shipbuilding division.

Established in March, the fund provides financial assistance to employees with dependent children enrolled in prekindergarten and post-secondary school programs. Applicants must meet financial and educational requirements. The scholarship fund is administered by Scholarship Management Services, a division of Scholarship America.

To help fund the program, Mike Petters, HII’s president and CEO, decided to decline all but $1 of his 2016 salary of $986,537. The money pledged does not include bonuses and stock options.

The scholarship fund is available to HII employees in the U.S. and Canada. The company has 35,000 employees.

Parents can receive up to $3,000 for preschool education costs. Post-secondary scholarships range from $1,500 to $3,000 for selected students, depending on whether they are enrolled in two-year or four-year programs. Post-secondary scholarships are renewable for students who remain in good academic standing.

On Sept 14, the fund awarded a total of 78 scholarships for the 2016-17 academic year. The application process, which begins again in March, will have a June deadline. The scholarships will be awarded before the start of school. Checks are made payable to the preschool or college that employees’ children are attending. 

Gale Royal, a production planner and scheduler at the shipyard, received a $3,000 scholarship for her daughter, Raven, who is a freshman at George Mason University in Fairfax.
“This has been a blessing to me,” she says. “I am grateful that this company acknowledges the importance of education not only for us but for our children as well.”

Petters says the fund attempts to address poverty and education, two of the biggest challenges facing the nation. “I’m interested in trying to help,” he says.
“The great thing about our business is that we are a large family,” Petters adds. “I had some folks looking out for me when I was coming through, and now it’s my turn.”

Petters says he decided to donate his salary to the scholarship program because he didn’t want it to be implemented incrementally. “This was money that was going to be spent anyway, and repurposing it would have a broader impact than the original impact,” Petters says. “This is not about me. It’s about the people that get the awards, about the generation to come.”

He approached the HII board of directors in February to discuss the idea. “We wanted to have the program up and running for the fall of this year. We have been fighting the clock on this the whole way,” he says. “That’s why I am so excited about the success. It’s now in a normal pattern.”

Once the company announced the Scholarship Fund, company employees began asking if they also could contribute to the fund. “A lot of folks benefit from this project and also contribute to it,” he says. “Everybody wins.”

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