Amy and Rob Heinrich P’22 of Grayslake, Illinois, create life-changing opportunities for ‘tough and tenacious’ students in the Odyssey Program. Their gift is counted toward the Elon LEADS Campaign.
On a Sunday in October 2019, The Rev. Amy Heinrich P’22 stood before the congregation of First Presbyterian Church of Libertyville in Illinois and told them about a group of Elon University students she and husband Rob had recently met over lunch. The associate pastor of congregational life at the church wrote her sermon that week about this gritty and grateful group of students who are in Elon’s Odyssey Scholarship Program.
“These students were tough and tenacious,” Amy Heinrich told those assembled that day. “Every single one of them talked about volunteering in the Village (Project) program for early childhood literacy or the Elon Academy program, tutoring high school students to help them become college ready. I asked if this was a requisite part of the Odyssey program. They said, ‘Oh, no. We feel so grateful for the opportunity we have been given, we just have to share it with others to enhance their chances of receiving the incredible blessing we have received.’”
The Heinrichs of Grayslake, Illinois, were impressed by the students they met and with Jean Rattigan-Rohr, vice president for access and success at Elon and director of the Center for Access and Success, which oversees the Odyssey Program, The Village Project and Elon Academy.
The Odyssey Program is among Elon’s largest and most prestigious scholarship programs and serves high-achieving students who have significant financial need. Many are first-generation college students who are often underrepresented on college and university campuses and who might not otherwise be able to attend college. The Heinrichs decided to support the program by generously endowing the Heinrich Family Odyssey Program Scholarship.
The depth of the Odyssey Program and how it supports students throughout their college experience stood out to the Heinrichs.
“What really impressed us about the program is that beyond the scholarship, students obtain the support to help them navigate the whole college environment. It was important to us that scholars have access to the additional monies necessary for the internships, study abroad, and job interview experiences that other students have,” said Dr. Rob Heinrich P’22, a clinical psychologist and owner of Lake Bluff Psychological Services. “It’s a model scholarship program for nurturing and retaining top tier first-generation students. We hope this gift inspires others to invest in the Odyssey Program.”
Growing the number of student scholarships is one of the top priorities of the $250 million Elon LEADS Campaign.
Jim Piatt, vice president for university advancement, also hopes others will be inspired by the Heinrichs leadership gift to a program that transforms lives. “Our Odyssey students are campus leaders who after graduation become inspired community leaders,” Piatt said. “We thank Rob and Amy for making a gift that makes a profound impact on a young person’s future.”
The stories the Odyssey students shared with the Heinrichs were deeply touching. Amy Heinrich said they were moved to tears as students shared personal stories about the transition from feelings of stigma to feelings of pride and belonging. Through the Odyssey Program’s support services and family atmosphere, the students gained confidence and are major contributors to a rich culture on campus. Students in the Odyssey Program are among the top-achieving students at Elon and are regularly represented on the President’s and Dean’s Lists.
“Both of us come from well-educated families and know the value of education in opening doors and creating opportunities for full civic and cultural participation. We are aware that there is a lot of inequality across racial and socio-economic lines to getting a higher education,” Amy Heinrich said. “We were looking for a place to invest and make an impact. Investing in the Odyssey program is one small way to redress this systemic injustice.”
Rattigan-Rohr said she was not surprised the Odyssey Program appealed to the Heinrich family. “During the time we spent with Mr. and Mrs. Heinrich we could see quite clearly that they embodied the spirit of our Odysseys – community, service, family and social justices.”
The Odyssey Program was established in 2008 and is recognized as a national model for need- and merit-based scholarships, with a 100 percent first-year retention rate and 90 percent graduation rate. The program is distinguished by a supportive cohort of peer-to-peer mentoring that works in conjunction with dynamic academic courses, leadership opportunities and access to Elon’s high-impact engaged learning programs known as the Elon Experiences, which includes study abroad.
“These students are some of the best scholars at Elon. They consistently earn academic awards, alongside their exemplary community participation,” Rob Heinrich said. “What better use for scholarship money could there be?”
The Heinrichs are the parents of Elon sophomore Emma Heinrich ’22 and serve on the university’s Parents Council.
For the Heinrichs, their gift to endow an Odyssey Scholarship ensures a long-term relationship with Elon and the Odyssey Program.
“We are looking forward to having a genuine relationship with the recipients of our scholarship,” Amy Heinrich said.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to contribute to the Odyssey Program,” Rob Heinrich added. “It’s a tribute to the people who had the insight to create such a program, and to Jean Rattigan-Rohr in particular. We thank them for allowing us to be a part of it.”
About the Elon LEADS Campaign
With a $250 million goal, Elon LEADS is the largest fundraising campaign in the university’s history and will support four main funding priorities: scholarships for graduates the world needs, increase access to engaged learning opportunities such as study abroad, research and service learning, support for faculty and staff mentors who matter and Elon’s iconic campus. To date, donors have contributed $189 million toward the goal.
Every gift to the university—including annual, endowment, capital, estate and other planned gifts—for any designation counts as a gift to the campaign, which will support students and strengthen Elon for generations to come. To learn more about how you can make an impact, visit www.elonleads.com.