Scholarships Will Enable 30 Black Students to Pursue Business Degrees
Rockford University, the region’s leading private four-year institution, today unveiled the Charles Box Scholarships, a program that will enable 30 Black students to pursue a business degree at the PURI School of Business over five years.
The scholarships honor Box, a former Rockford Mayor, a trustee of Rockford University, and a committed lifelong community advocate. A pledge of $250,000 by the Puri Foundation will leverage over $800,000 in tuition for the recipients. The Puri Foundation was founded by Sunil Puri, CEO of First Midwest Group and alumnus and Trustee Emeritus of Rockford University.
The Charles Box Scholarships will be awarded to an estimated 12 students per year for five years and are designated for Black students pursuing a degree in business through the degree completion programs at the PURI School of Business at Rockford University.
“There’s no better person for these scholarships to be named after than Charles Box. His influence in our community, his dedication to pursuing justice, and his unrelenting passion for enhancing our world is significant,” said Dr. Eric Fulcomer, President, Rockford University. “We are equally honored by the generous spirit that Sunil Puri continues to share with the community and our University. His inspirational contributions will make a lasting, positive impact on our students that will ripple for generations.”
In 1989, Box was elected as the first Black mayor in Rockford and was re-elected for two additional terms. At the time, Box won a greater percentage of votes than any Rockford mayor since the 1920s. He’s described as an active listener, a consensus builder, and an advocate for education, regional economic growth, and participation in critical issues.
“I’m humbled by this honor and so appreciative of Sunil and Rockford University for setting a precedent for our community – and perhaps our world – by providing the opportunities for Black students to a pursue higher education,” said Box. “This is not about me, but rather about those who will benefit from all that Rockford University has to offer in order to make their dreams a reality.”
The Charles Box Scholarships will allow students to complete their business degree at Rockford University debt-free and be well-positioned for careers in our world today.
“During this time of tremendous inequity in our country, the Puri Foundation believes it is especially important to provide opportunities for Black students to build generational wealth through a business education. A degree from Rockford University will empower these students to become employers and start their own businesses in our community,” said Puri.
The world-class education I received at Rockford University was about much more than the classes and grades. It prepared me to be flexible and adapt, even through circumstances as unprecedented as a pandemic. That’s the benefit of a liberal arts education.”
ABOUT CHARLES BOX A native of Rockford, Charles Box graduated from Auburn Senior High School in 1969, from Dartmouth College, Magna Cum Laude in 1973; and from the University of Michigan Law School in 1976. Box practiced law in Rockford as a member of the firm of Connolly, Oliver, Goddard, Coplan and Close from 1976 to 1981. He served as Rockford’s Legal Director from 1981 to 1987, and as the City Administrator from 1987 to 1989.
Box made history in April 1989 when he became the first Black to be elected Mayor of Rockford, Illinois’ second largest city. He was re-elected in 1993 and again in 1997. During his terms as Mayor, he served on the Board of Trustees of the U. S. Conference of Mayors and served as the Vice President of the Illinois Municipal League.
During his three terms as Mayor, Box focused on housing, economic development, cultural and environmental issues. In 2006 he was nominated and confirmed as Chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission, an entity that regulates electric, gas and water rates for publicly owned utilities.
Since returning to Rockford in 1976, Box has also served on and contributed to numerous organizations for the betterment of the region, including serving as a member of Board of Trustees for Rockford University.
ABOUT PURI FOUNDATION The Puri Foundation was established in 2014 by Sunil Puri, the founder of First Midwest Group and lifelong philanthropist in the Rockford-region. The organization’s core mission is to fund opportunities that empower underprivileged individuals. The Puri Foundation accomplishes this goal by contributing financial resources to foster educational, athletic, civil society, and other philanthropic initiatives led by high-impact organizations.
The Puri Foundation’s initial gift was a $5,000,000 monetary and building pledge to endow the Puri School of Business at Rockford University in 2014. Since then, the foundation has been active in the region with a $2,250,000 donation of the Puri Family YMCA building in 2015, the establishment of the Puri Residence Hall at Rockford Christian Schools in 2018, and continual support for the Golden Apple Foundation through the Puri Family Outstanding Principal Award, among others. The foundation is also active internationally, providing seed funding for Water for Dignity, a Non-Government Organization providing clean water and women’s empowerment initiatives to India’s most impoverished regions.
ABOUT ROCKFORD UNIVERSITY Rockford University is a private four-year, co-educational institution founded in 1847 offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in traditional liberal arts and professional fields. The University offers more than 80 majors, minors and concentrations, including the bachelor’s degree completion program for a B.S. in Management Studies. Through its Graduate Studies department, degrees are extended to include the Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT), and Master of Education in Urban Education, (M.Ed.). Rockford University is home to one of only 11 Phi Beta Kappa (PBK) chapters in Illinois, the most prestigious honor society in the United States. Named by The Princeton Review as a Best Midwestern College and is a U.S. News & World Report Best Midwest Regional University, Rockford University currently serves approximately 1,250 full-and part-time students.
For more information: Rebecca Epperson, Chartwell Agency, 815.621.8295 or RU@chartwell-agency.com.