Valparaiso University students who are veterans of the U.S. Armed Services and suffered significant wounds or disabilities during their service will be eligible to receive scholarship support thanks to the generosity of alumni Ron Zech ’65 and Gisela Gerber ’66 Zech, who recently passed away. The children or dependents of wounded veterans or of veterans who lost their lives during service are also eligible. The couple has committed $1.5 million to establish the Gisela and Ron Zech Endowed Scholarship Fund.
“Gisela and I were very happy to make this commitment in support of two entities of great importance to us: education and veterans. Wounded veterans and their families are placed in an incredibly difficult position,” said Ron Zech. “We established the scholarship to help them achieve something that otherwise may not be possible.”
Valpo has been recognized as a Military Friendly School for 2016 by Victory Media. The list honors the top 15 percent of higher education institutions in the country that do the most to embrace America’s military service members, veterans, and spouses as students and ensure their success on campus. Additionally, U.S. News & World Report ranks Valpo No. 5 on the list of Best Colleges for Veterans in the Midwest.
“Valparaiso University prepares students for lives of leadership and service. Veterans and their family members understand what it means to sacrifice for the sake of others, and the entire University community can benefit from their character, wisdom and experience,” said Mark A. Heckler, Ph.D., president of Valparaiso University. “This endowed scholarship is a first for Valpo, and its significance cannot be overstated. We are extremely grateful to Ron and Gisela for establishing this scholarship and to their many friends who made contributions in Gisela’s memory after her sudden passing.”
“Our lives have been shaped by the relationships we established and the education we received at Valpo. Gisela and I met very early in her freshman year, and we were blessed with 53 wonderful years together,” said Ron Zech. “Many of our closest friends are those we met at Valpo. We made this gift as a way to give back to the University and ensure a Valpo education is available to deserving veterans and their family members.”
Ron Zech earned a bachelor of science in electrical engineering from Valparaiso University and an MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, after which he returned to Valpo for three years as a faculty member in the College of Business. He spent 29 years with GATX Corporation, serving as chairman and chief executive officer from 1996 until his retirement in 2005. Zech has been a member of the Valparaiso University Board of Directors since 2013 and serves on the executive committee for Valpo’s upcoming campaign, currently in the leadership gifts phase.
Gisela Zech earned a bachelor of arts in sociology and geography from Valpo and a teaching degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She passed away on May 3, 2015, after suffering a severe stroke. The Zechs are longtime residents of Marin County California, and Gisela was active in the community for more than 40 years, raised two sons, and is the proud grandmother of six grandchildren.