Alumnus donates $500,000 grant to fund College of Business internships

Leighann McGivern

A Kent State alumnus and retired businessman recently made a $500,000 donation to fund unpaid internships for students in the College of Business Administration.


Jaclyn Gunther, a senior marketing major, who is currently interning with the Cleveland Cavaliers, will benefit from the grant. Gunther quit her part-time retail job in order to accept a full-time unpaid internship.

“I went into this not having the grant given to me, so I was initially just going off of student loans, and because of that, I haven’t been able to work,” Gunther said. “It’s also helped me basically because its one less thing that I need to worry about. Its $4,000 I don’t have to pay back.”


Walter Van Benthuysen, a 1961 advertising graduate and native of Canton, Ohio, said he and his wife, Judy, made the donation to provide scholarships to students in unpaid internships because they recognize the value of internships for students. He said they give students an upper hand in the post-graduate interview process.

?“If they have on their resume that they have an internship in an industry and another candidate does not, it would seem to me that would give them some competitive advantage,” Van Benthuysen said. “It gives the student an opportunity to see the business world for the way it is versus strictly from an educational perspective.”Each scholarship is worth between $2,000 and $4,000 depending on the number of hours a student works on the internship. Kristin Williams, manager of Business Experiences, said more than 60 percent of the internships offered by employers through the College of Business Administration are unpaid, and only 58 students participated in the internship program in spring 2008. She said the department’s long-term goal is to increase the number of students to 500 by 2013.

?Not all students seeking an unpaid scholarship through the College of Business are eligible to receive these scholarships. Williams said students must fill out applications to be approved for academic credit. The awards are decided based upon academic achievement, and in most programs within the department, students have to have a minimum 2.5 or 3.0 GPA.

“The emphasis that I keep placing on this award is that it’s there, but it’s not so we can fund students to go take unpaid work,” Williams said. “The internships are really investigated by our faculty, and their mission is to let (students) have a quality experience and be top-notch students having these experiences.”


Williams said Van Benthuysen and his wife began discussing plans for the grant with the department in the summer of 2009, as he saw the economy taking its downward leap.

“We had students share their stories about how they were not necessarily struggling but how they were balancing financial need, academics and still taking these unpaid internships, which we are fully in support of because they’re great learning experiences,” Williams said.

?Steve Sokany, senior associate vice president of Institutional Advancement, said Van Benthuysen and his wife have been very supportive of the university for many years and have made several contributions to the College of Business in the past, including funding the Walter and Judy Van Benthuysen Medallion Scholarship.

“They also have a position in the state plans to support scholarships, and they’ve supported a number of different things throughout the years,” Sokany said.

?Van Benthuysen, who was previously employed in marketing and management roles in the food industry, including a position with Campbell’s Soup Company, said he hopes his contribution will inspire others to fund similar scholarships for other academic programs.

“Our hope is that this will expand through other foundations or individual donors—past alumni—who will also jump in and support the program,” Van Benthuysen said. “Then we will have something that will not only be larger but will continue indefinitely.”

Contact Leighann McGivern at [email protected].