As a veteran himself, William “Bill” Schoen believes in serving those who served.
Schoen, a Naples resident for 35 years who’s the retired founder, president, chief executive officer and chairman of the board of health-care giant Health Management Associates, spends much of his time these days sharing his good fortune in philanthropic fashion through his Schoen Foundation. Much of that philanthropy involves millions he donates to fund scholarships for military veterans and their families at several universities, including Florida Gulf Coast, where in late 2015 he contributed an additional $250,000 to the Schoen Foundation Veteran’s Scholarship Endowed Fund that he established in 2007. He also provided another $100,000 to bolster a new entrepreneurship program for veterans that started at FGCU this year.
Helping those who serve our country – as Schoen did as a Marine stationed in Korea from 1953 to 1956 during an eight-year tour – is a pay-it-back passion that grew out of the first academic break he got after his service discharge, a scholarship to the University of Southern California, where he earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in business.
“I feel strongly that those men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to protect us should, after they leave the military, have every opportunity to not only get an education, but not be bound with a lot of debt in doing so,” Schoen said. “It’s important to me to assist them in any way I can to be successful.”
Schoen, who serves as a member of the Lutgert College of Business Advisory Council, has also made significant impact locally as a Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida Business Hall of Famer (inducted 2009) and Hodges University’s 2003 Humanitarian of the Year. In 2006, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by Ernst & Young, one of the world’s largest auditprofessional services firms, for his entrepreneurial accomplishments.
He is a regular guest lecturer at FGCU business classes and programs, and one of the go-to role models for students who’s often called upon by faculty such as Sandra Kauanui, professor of entrepreneurship and management and director of the Lutgert Institute for Entrepreneurship. Recently, Kauanui asked Schoen to give a talk to more than 30 veterans who came to FGCU’s new Emergent Technologies Institute for the inaugural Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program she helped implement, a pilot undertaking by Veterans Florida that gives those who served help in starting or growing their own small businesses.
“He’s been a staunch supporter of what we do here for a long time,” Kauanui said. “He gives 100 percent of himself – he’s totally dedicated to education, and in particular the value of military service as it relates to education.”
When Kauanui was looking for seed money to help veterans who went through the entrepreneurship program get their business models started, she knew where to go – and came away with $100,000.
“It took Bill five minutes to say yes,” she said.