Alaskan philanthropist supporting Ukrainian students

Published: Aug. 30, 2022 at 6:24 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - An Alaskan man is making a difference for displaced Ukrainians with the help of the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Like many people witnessing the devastation in Ukraine this past March, James Bowers felt compelled to help. Bowers pitched in by starting the Ukrainian Student Support Fund to provide financial assistance to college students seeking refuge. Bowers is a retired project engineer but stays active in the community through philanthropic work.

Since 2003, Bowers has been supporting student scholarships at UAA. So, when he saw 38 colleges in one Ukrainian city alone were destroyed, he knew something had to be done.

“One day the big stress in your life is cramming for your calculus midterm and then the next day your building is blown up, and then the next day your apartment is blown up, and you’re a train trying to get out of town,” Bowers said.

Bowers is no stranger to giving grants. In the past, his scholarships have awarded $45,700, helping 27 students graduate in various fields. So when he needed a partner, the University of Alaska Foundation was happy to lend a hand. UAA Chancellor Sean Parnell jumped on board immediately.

“How can we not try to do something in the face of what these students and their families have suffered and are suffering and so it was in that moment that I realized Alaskans would be willing to step up,” Parnell said.

Funds are providing everything from tuition to housing and supplies. But Bowers sees beyond the short term. Bowers believes education is important and not only will the foundation help Ukrainian students find some normalcy in their lives, but will also provide educators for Ukraine when the war is over.

“You look at the hospitals that were destroyed, and schools, and bridges, and buildings, and roads,” Bowers said. “They’re going to need engineers to put that back together. They’re going to need people with construction management training, they’re going to need nurses for the orphanages, and UAA is all pretty good at doing that.”

Bowers says he can’t do it alone. What he has provided is substantial, but it doesn’t cover the existing need. The foundation is currently able to help five students based on Bowers’ contribution but there’s a need to help 30 students. Those interested in supporting the Ukrainian students can visit the foundation website.