The parents of two Grand Island Senior High seniors were recently called in to the school’s counseling office.
What they were told left the mothers in tears.
Both students, Sarah Koubek and Shane Jacobs, not only have been accepted into one of the most prestigious universities in the country, but they have full-ride, four-year scholarships valued at $55,000 a year to pay for tuition, room and board and books. It’s a $220,000 package for each student.
“It’s surreal,” Jacobs said this week. “It still hasn’t sunk in.”
Both students fell in love with Northwestern University after a tour at the school in Evanston, Illinois, just outside of Chicago.
“The campus is beautiful,” Koubek said. “Lake Michigan is right there.”
The National Center for Education Statistics recently rated Northwestern as the 22nd most selective college or university in the United States. The acceptance rate is 13.1 percent with nearly 33,700 students applying annually and just more than 4,400 getting in.
Koubek, the daughter of Dave and Kris Koubek, said she really likes the school’s historic buildings, rigorous classes and variety of academic strengths.
“It’s a really good school, obviously, and it’s really easy to double major and minor in things,” Koubek said. “I don’t just want to do one thing.”
She’s currently undecided on a major and has interests in English, film and math.
Jacobs, the son of Neal and Judy Jacobs, said he likes Northwestern’s academic rigor and trimester system, which allows for a little faster pace of study. The trimester systems also allows for concentrated studies followed by about three weeks of downtime, which Jacobs believes is good for focus and then preparing for rigorous study again.
“You actually get more schooling done,” he said.
Jacobs plans to major in chemistry, with a minor either in biology or psychology.
The two Northwestern-bound students have had some similarities along the way. They both attended Stolley Park Elementary. They both scored 34 on their ACT exams and they both have the same academic counselor, Melissa Luthi-Placke.
Koubek went to Barr Middle School, while Jacobs went to Central Catholic through his freshman year, then transferred to Grand Island Senior High. Both have been very involved in extracurricular activities in high school.
Koubek has played clarinet in band throughout high school and serves as drum major. She’s also captain of the swim team and is a state medalist in both the 100 breaststroke and in relays. She’s played piano for eight years.
Jacobs played a year of high school football, basketball and golf at Central Catholic, then two years of golf at Senior High, as well as two years of tennis.
Both took a variety of Advanced Placement classes at GISH, which they said provided good college prep in rigor and lessons in time management and work ethic. They both have taken AP World History, Physics, Government, Economics, Literature and Composition, U.S. History, Calculus, Chemistry. Jacobs has also taken AP Biology.
Neither have had any past connection to Northwestern — but they do have the same generous funder for their scholarships — Lanny Martin.
Martin is the founder and managing director of Platte River Equity, a Denver-based equity investment company that specializes in mid-level companies in aerospace and transportation; industrial and energy products and services; and chemicals, metals, minerals and agriculture.
Martin graduated from Grand Island Senior High in 1964. He had plans to go to an in-state college, because of proximity and cost, but through direction and encouragement from his high school counselor, Bob Hamblet, Martin went to Northwestern University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and then a law degree.
“It really had a big influence on my life,” Martin said.
He’s called Northwestern a “game changer” in his life, so in 2012, and every year since, he has decided to offer a scholarship in the name of Hamblet.
“I wanted to introduce generations of Grand Island Senior High School graduates to Northwestern,” Martin said.
Through the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation, under Director Traci Skalberg, Martin is in his fifth year of providing a full-ride Northwestern education to a GISH grad. Twice, he’s funded two new grads in a single year.
“Northwestern is a very challenging university to get into,” Skalberg said. “Some years we just have one that gets in, some years we’ve had two — and Lanny just wants to get them all there.”
“It’s really by his generous heart,” she said.
“Generally there’s one, but we just happened to have a second that got in, so I just decided to do two this year,” Martin said. “I’ve been very fortunate in my life and Grand Island had a huge, important part of my life and my wife and I enjoy paying it forward.”
Martin said Grand Island was always an “open, giving community” growing up where he went to Wasmer Elementary, Barr Junior High and then GISH. His father served as mayor and was active in the chamber. His mother was the first female deacon in the Presbyterian Church.
Besides the scholarships to Northwestern, Martin and his siblings have honored their parents by providing the Jack and Lucile Martin Memorial Scholarship, which provides $20,000 a year for four years for two students to the school of their choice. The Martin siblings also provide the Lucile Martin Dream scholarships, which are 10 scholarships for $5,000 each for trades such as nursing, machining, and construction, Skalberg said.
Koubek and Jacobs will head off to college in September, but this May before graduation, they will have the opportunity to meet Martin face-to-face here in Grand Island.
What will they say?
“Thank you,” Koubek said. “I want to ask him about his experience at Northwestern.”
“Thank you for sure,” Jacobs said. “ Past that — that’s what I’ve been trying to figure out and will continue to think about for the next month.”
“I just think this is what America needs and what every family needs — more education in order to take on a better and higher-paying job, so they can have some of the benefits of this great country and they too can raise their kids and do the same thing,” Martin said.