Scholarships Accumulate Human Dividends

Student and donor speaking at scholarship dinnerScholarships improve students’ lives. At Fresno Pacific University, they also build relationships.

Take the scholarships funded by the Leon S. Peters Foundation and the Karl and Nancy Avakian Family Endowed Scholarship. The Peters Foundation offers scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as the Leon and Alice Peters Business Leadership Scholarship. The Avakian Scholarship assists undergraduate students and honors an alumnus and church leader. 

The annual Scholarship Dinner, (this year on April 6) brings together those who give and those who receive. “It’s really special to us and we’re grateful,” said David Peters, of the Peters Foundation Board.

“It’s just nice to know people are willing to invest money in students,” said John Samson, who gets the Avakian Scholarship.

Why they give

Karl Avakian was born in Egypt in 1936, moving to the United States at 21 to attend Pacific Bible Institute, the forerunner of FPU. He also graduated from the then-Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary. He became moderator and conference minister of the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America. Avakian joined the FPU Board in 1990 and served until his 2010 death. The scholarship is continued by wife Nancy and daughter Laura. 

Karl Avakian faced the same challenges as many current students. “He didn’t know how he was going to pay for private schools,” Nancy said. “He received a lot of financial help from a lot of people.”

Faith and gratitude led Avakian to help others. “He often said, I came from Egypt to the promised land,” Nancy said. 

Leon S. Peters (1905-1983) was from Fowler, CA. After high school, he worked on his father’s ranch and did custom tractor work. Peters was later a salesman for Valley Foundry and Machine Works, eventually owning the company. Peters and his wife, Alice, invested in the community. He chaired at least 12 community and charitable organizations. Today, the foundation is overseen by a board, including nephews Ken Peters, president, and David Peters.
“I got interested in the kids at Fresno Pacific because of their integrity,” Ken Peters said. “It makes us feel good we can do these things for deserving people who can make the community better.”

The university’s Christian witness is important, as is the sacrifice students and families make to attend, David Peters said. “They really want to come here.” 

The scholarship was actually huge for me. It allowed me to live on campus and get the full FPU experience.
Carlee Clarke
Carlee Clarke speaking with donor at scholarship dinner

Why they’re grateful

Derek Arkelian and Carlee Clarke receive Peters scholarships. Arkelian is a junior from Clovis majoring in kinesiology with an emphasis in physical therapy who plays outfield for the Sunbirds and is preparing to become a physician’s assistant with a part-time job as a scribe at a local hospital. Clarke (BA ’16) is in the teacher credential program. The Selma native spends her days student teaching fifth grade at Ronald W. Reagan Elementary School in Kingsburg and attends classes at night.

FPU had long been in Clarke’s plans. “I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, and if you want to be a teacher in the Central Valley, Fresno Pacific is the place to do it,” she said.

“The scholarship was actually huge for me. It allowed me to live on campus and get the full FPU experience,” Clarke said. 

Arkelian wanted to stay close to home for college. “Being able to play baseball in my hometown was important to me,” he said. 

Strong academics and a community where he could get to know students and professors also figured into his calculations. “Here I knew I was going to be successful past baseball,” Arkelian said.

Avakian Scholarship recipient John Samson is a Bakersfield senior majoring in communications and contemporary Christian ministries who serves as a resident assistant and admissions ambassador. He will spend next year at a New York City nonprofit helping young people in foster care.

Samson’s scholarship allowed him to take an unpaid internship with Fresno Area Community Enterprises (FACE,) a social enterprise at North Fresno MB Church. “I could get experience I wouldn’t have been able to get if I’d needed to use the time for a part-time job,” he said. 

Speaking for many, Arkelian describes the difference his scholarship makes: “I don’t know if I could be here without it.”

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