A $200,000 scholarship program sets the bar high both on and off the track for Fresno Pacific University student-athletes, and benefits the region as well as the recipients.

The Gregory Family Athletic Honors Scholarship seeks to attract top students whose achievements and potential in academics, athletics and leadership might otherwise lure them to colleges, universities and lives outside the Central Valley. “Too many young people leave the area and take their talents with them. Now they can stay here and get as much support as they would anywhere else in the country,” said Ray Winter, Ph.D., FPU track and cross country coach.

The Gregory scholarship, which began in fall 2015, is one of the nation’s premier programs of its kind for track and cross country. “I don’t know of other scholarships, especially at the NCAA Division II level, that are at this level of giving,” Winter said.

The scholarship was begun by husband and wife Dr. Don and Karen Gregory. A Fresno native, Don is a Fresno cardiologist who was himself a track and cross country athlete at FPU, where he got his B.A. in 1975. He is still involved in the local running scene. Karen, a registered nurse, devotes her time to family, church and community.

Starting in fall 2016 the next group of five student-athletes will each get $10,000 a year, renewable for four years, in addition to all other aid for which they may qualify. “The Gregory scholarship is a real draw to the Valley student who is that high-caliber scholar who also demonstrates leadership and character—who represents all the facets FPU stands for,” Winter said. “We’re looking for exceptional people who are also exceptional track athletes.”

The first group of Gregory scholars are: Courtney Moore, a junior from Hanford majoring in studio art and communication; Jake Russo, a freshman from Clovis majoring in math who plans to be a teacher and coach; Leah Rife-Dupuy, a junior from San Luis Obispo majoring in kinesiology who plans to be an occupational therapist; and Alex Torres, a freshman from Kingsburg majoring in kinesiology who plans to be a physical therapist.

Recipients say this scholarship is the reason they can attend the university of their choice. “It’s a really good opportunity to further my academics and compete at the collegiate level. It means a lot to me and I’m really thankful,” Torres said.

The spiritual dimension is also important, Rife-Dupuy said. “That’s one of the things I wanted to go to school for, was to continue to learn about Jesus Christ.”

Preferences are for candidates who:

  • Compete in track and cross country

  • Maintain a 3.5 grade point average

  • Show financial need

  • Reside in the San Joaquin Valley region

  • Demonstrate community service and civic responsibility

  • A personal character that reflects FPU standards

  • Plan to study in the health-care field

“As the Gregory scholarship grows in prestige, its benefits will follow recipients throughout their careers,” said FPU President Richard Kriegbaum, Ph.D. “The men and women who earn this honor will be lifelong ambassadors of Fresno Pacific. They will live out the vision we share with Don and Karen that goes beyond titles and trophies to people who represent the best Christian higher education has to offer.”