“Students benefit as much from the mentoring of a caring, interested individual
as they do from the financial support.” – Jeff Provol, donor
A good mentor is often difficult to find. A good mentor whose assistance comes with financial support, even harder. But for those FGCU students fortunate enough to receive a scholarship from a donor-mentor, the rewards transcend the dollars and cents of it all.
Enter Jeff Provol, donor and FGCU Foundation Board member, who also serves on the Development Committee; Provol endowed the G. Jeffrey Provol Scholarship at FGCU. In addition to his goal of assisting students financially, he is deeply interested in mentoring his students and helping them succeed.
Enter Sarah Stauring (’17, Biology). A graduate student and recipient of the 2016-17 and 2017-18 Provol Scholarship, Stauring could not be more grateful for the financial support and mentorship. “Jeff and I met a few times a semester before my graduation, and our relationship has continued with the same frequency since then,” said Stauring, whose graduate work at FGCU is in environmental engineering. “We talk about goals. We talk about life issues – physical health, exercise, work load. Jeff really cares about everything.”
“Most students meet their donor for the first time at the annual (President’s) Scholarship Luncheon, and it’s a one-time experience,” said Provol, who wants the relationship to continue in a more productive way. “Becoming a caring mentor can provide an invaluable and enriching experience. It gives an added sense of purpose to life in its recognition that we are here to help each other. Scholarship students are an inspiration; they want to make the world a better place and offer hope for solving the complex problems in the world.”
“Sarah is a remarkable young lady,” Provol said. “She’s accomplished so much at FGCU, and within the community. As an undergraduate, she was selected as one of 10 seniors to be inducted into FGCU’s Hall of Fame. As a graduate student, in addition to her class schedule, she works as a graduate assistant in the alumni office at FGCU and participates in an internship.”
Sarah’s internship with the Lee County Hyacinth Control District relates directly to her career goals. “I’m interested in water quality. I want to make sure we’re doing the best we can for our environment,” Stauring said.
Provol tries to spend as much time with Stauring as she would like. He’s a dedicated spokesperson for the value of mentoring and is committed to sharing his passion and his experiences.
For her part, Stauring said, “My relationship with Jeff is very reciprocal. He loves to share things he’s learned, and he is open to learning new things when I share what I’ve learned. I am very thankful Jeff is in my life.”
“The value of a great mentor is immeasurable; their guidance is unsurpassed.
Thank you for helping me realize my dreams and always believing in me.
I am forever grateful.” – Taylor Toreno, student
Taylor Toreno, (’17, Resort and Hospitality Management) gifted her mentors, Jim and Lynn Knupp, a beautiful canvas depicting the Tree of Life and inscribed with the above tribute. The Knupps would add “priceless” to this writer’s description, meaning Toreno’s gift, given thoughtfully and with affection, is irreplaceable.
The Knupps moved to Naples 19 years ago, he after retiring from his Chicago-based investment consulting firm, Ennis Knupp and Associates; she from a career in north Chicago real estate. The couple got involved with the university shortly after their move. “Involved,” however, is a bit of a misnomer.
Jim Knupp’s first contact was with then dean of the Lutgert College of Business, Dick Pegnetter, “a phenomenal guy who got me excited about FGCU,” said Jim Knupp. He has chaired the Finance Committee, the Development Committee and, later, the FGCU Foundation Board to which he attracted new directors.
Loyal donors for years, the couple endowed the James F. and Lynn E. Knupp Scholarship 10 years ago.
Parents of two sons and one daughter and grandparents to six, the Knupps understand that the future of the country is in the hands of the young. “Education is so critical to developing a strong self and assuming positions of leadership,” said Lynn Knupp.
“When we established the scholarship, we made it clear we weren’t just interested in just giving money,” said Jim Knupp. “We were interested in getting to know our scholarship recipients and providing counsel and other forms of support to help them be successful.”
Two-time Knupp Scholarship recipient, Taylor Toreno met her mentors at the scholarship luncheon in 2016. She immediately showed her gratitude to the Knupps, passing them a handwritten note of thanks. The Knupps said they realized then that there was something special about this young woman. “As we got to know her, we learned more about her background,” said Jim Knupp. “Most notably, she had no family and was working her way through college.”
The Knupps began inviting Toreno to family get-togethers with their children and grandchildren. She became one of the family with the littlest Knupp grandchildren fighting to be the first to sit next to her. “Taylor values personal relationships,” said Lynn Knupp, who values the same.
Toreno said her relationship with the Knupps has meant everything to her. “It has given me a sense of home, warmth I haven’t received in a long time. The Knupps are the grandparents I never had. They are irreplaceable in my life.”
Indeed, her relationship with the Knupps has evolved into much more than donor/scholarship recipient. The couple offer advice and help her make the big decisions in her life. Toreno calls them “inspirational.”
“Jim and Lynn are two of the most caring people I’ve ever met,” she said. “So many people in today’s society don’t care about other people’s problems. The Knupps are so empathetic, so welcoming, so generous with their time and knowledge.”
Her gratitude was in her voice as she said: “There just aren’t many people like them. A very rare find.”
For details on making a gift,
contact the FGCU Foundation at