As a college freshman, Bob Winot ’71 worked a 40-hour week at the General Electric plant in Somersworth. After an eight-hour workday, he’d grab a quick dinner at the boarding house, drive to campus for night classes, stay late to study, then finally head back home to sleep.
It was a routine he would repeat every day for three and a half years. “You really had to want it to put in that kind of effort,” he recalls. “But I knew this was the only way I was going to get my degree.” Winot’s non-traditional path through college had no time for partying and little time for “hanging out.”
Now retired from a successful career at IBM, Winot is giving back to future UNH students in hopes that they don’t have to toil quite as much as he did to earn their undergraduate degrees. He has pledged $2 million of his estate to the University of New Hampshire to support scholarships for students in the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences (CEPS).
The scholarships will cover the full cost of tuition for as many as four students — Winot hopes more — from New Hampshire or Vermont who demonstrate financial need and have a grade-point average of 3.0 or higher. “Student success is at the heart of everything we do in CEPS and this gift will help deserving students focus on achieving that success,” notes Wayne Jones, dean of the college.
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Winot and his three brothers grew up in a working-class family in Cavendish, Vermont, a town so small in the 1950s and 60s that it didn’t have its own high school. There was no way his parents could afford to pay for college. A guidance counselor at Springfield High School discovered the apprentice program between General Electric and UNH—a six-year pathway to a Bachelor of Science degree. Students worked full time at GE for the first three years of college in exchange for tuition, books and a place to live, plus a salary to save for the rest of their undergraduate expenses.
“For students today who are in the same situation I was in 50 or so years ago, this might mean they can live on campus and go through college the traditional way,” he explains. “I wanted this scholarship to be significant enough that a deserving kid wouldn’t have to work as hard as I did and would be able to get out of college debt free. I’m thrilled to be able to give back to the school by making this gift.”