Behind him are portraits of George Snow Scholarship recipients.
Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
By Ron Hayes
During his years in the construction industry, Ron Wells lived in 22 locations around the country.
New Jersey and Kentucky; Mississippi, Texas and Nebraska. Atlanta, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Six different places in New York state alone.
“Plus I was also taking on international assignments,” he says, “so I wanted to live someplace where I felt like I was on vacation when I returned to the U.S.”
In 1988, Wells discovered Boca Raton and bought a home. And after retiring here in 2008, he discovered the George Snow Scholarship Fund.
Now, instead of building highways, dams and bridges, Wells is helping to construct an educational infrastructure for the area’s deserving high school seniors.
Recently, he donated $100,000 to initiate the Snow Education Endowment Campaign, an effort to raise at least $1 million in 2015, with an ultimate goal of $20 million in the years ahead.
“When I lived in California, I was involved with a scholarship that gave out $700,000 a year,” Wells explains. “But they gave it directly to the universities. We never got to meet the kids. Here, I not only meet the kids, I meet their parents.”
In donating to the Snow scholarships, Wells is also supporting a foundation named for a man who, like himself, found his calling in construction.
George Snow came to the area in 1958 and taught high school math in Delray Beach before moving into real estate development and construction in Boca Raton. After Snow’s 1980 death in a helicopter crash, his son, Tim, established the George Snow Scholarship Fund to honor a father who had left teaching, but never abandoned his commitment to education.
“In 2014, we had 684 applicants,” Tim Snow said, “and we gave $634,000 to 83 students.”
The average scholarship is $7,500 for four years, to make up the difference between their grants and loans.”
Other scholarships hand out checks, but the Snow Fund prides itself on establishing relationships. Each recipient leaves for college with a laptop, a duffel bag of school supplies and a college physical.
“After the recent shooting at FSU,” Snow says, “we called all 28 of our recipients there to make sure they were all right. They become part of our family.”
It’s that personal touch that’s inspired Wells to promise another $100,000 when the endowment reaches $450,000 and the same again when it tops $900,000.
“I’ve met kids from foster homes who are working a couple of jobs, and they’re at the top of their class,” he says. “The first time you meet the recipients is in June, and then you meet their folks with tears in their eyes, thanking you. It’s incredible.”
The father of four adult sons, including one in Boca Raton and another in Delray Beach, Wells spends his free time caring for his house, managing investments and collecting Porsche 911s. He has 18, so far.
Every year, he tries to visit a locale he hasn’t seen yet. Africa is his favorite, and China is high on the list.
“And I have a boat, so I fish a little,” he adds. “Unsuccessfully.”
Beyond providing seed money for a permanent endowment, he’s contributed individual scholarships in his own name, earmarked when possible for engineering students.
“But this is not about me,” he says. “There’s a lot of money here, and there’s a lot of people in Palm Beach County. The ideal would be that someone sees this who is not familiar with the George Snow Foundation and says, ‘I’d like to learn more.’ ”
The application deadline for the Spring 2015 George Snow Scholarships is Feb. 1. For more information, visit www.scholarship.org or call 347-6799.
Caribbean Cowboy Ball
On Jan. 24, the George Snow Scholarship Fund will have its 22nd annual ‘Caribbean Cowboy Ball.’
What: A western-themed fundraiser with live music, food, an open bar and an auction featuring beach vacations and two weeks in the South of France.
When: 6 p.m. Jan. 24.
Where: Red Reef Park, Boca Raton.
Tickets: $175 per person; corporate package with preferred seating available for $2,250.
Reservations: Call 347-6799.