Historically, Fontbonne University was born out of the mission of its founders, the Sisters of St. Joseph Carondelet, “to serve the dear neighbor without distinction.” When they arrived in the Midwest in the 1830s, the sisters were charged with educating the deaf, a population that, at that time, seemed most in need. According to the president of Fontbonne University, Dr. J. Michael Pressimone, a new need has arisen in the community.

“For us, [today,] the ‘dear neighbor’ is the underserved student, with academic ability, for whom the dream of a private, individually focused higher education is unattainable,” he explains. “Fontbonne Promise was born out of that concept.”

Qualifying students for the Fontbonne Promise scholarship program (first-time Missouri freshmen with the greatest financial need) receive a loan-free financial aid package that completely covers tuition.

“[Candidates] bring a level of diversity to our community that we have not seen before,” Pressimone declares. “They bring a richness to campus. They have a socioeconomic status in common that does not allow them to afford college. They have many needs, from supporting their families to limited transportation, but we’re trying to remove the tuition piece to make it possible for them to attend school.”

Orvin Kimbrough, CEO of Midwest BankCentre, knows firsthand the remarkable difference accessibility to higher education can make in one’s life. “Education has always been a game-changer in this country,” he states. “You want to move up the economic ladder? Education is a sure way to do it.”

Kimbrough is serving as chair to this year’s Fontbonne Prom, a scholarship gala that benefits the university and the Fontbonne Promise program. Last year’s fundraising event garnered more than $550,000, which directly benefited students and ushered 32 freshmen into the unique scholarship program.

“When I think about Fontbonne’s call to action to soar higher, it aligns 100 percent with Midwest BankCentre’s [culture], where we encourage all to dream big and rise together,” Kimbrough shares. “At the bank, we work to empower people, enable businesses and energize neighborhoods through the strength of our financial services.

“Similarly, Fontbonne gives college-ready students who lack funding access to education, which will expand their potential,” he adds. “[In turn,] they will contribute to the region’s prosperity by developing their gifts and reshaping the community for the better.”

Thanks to Fontbonne’s promise to enrich the St. Louis community, brilliant young minds can finally feel limitless.

Fontbonne University, 6800 Wydown Blvd., 314-862-3456, fontbonne.edu

Fontbonne Prom

6 p.m. May 18 at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis

The Voice veteran Tish Haynes Keys emcees this spectacular throwback event, where guests will be entertained by the Fabulous Motown Revue. Visit fontbonne.edu/prom to purchase tickets or learn about sponsorship opportunities.

LN's special content writer has a love for all things beautiful, from people trying to change the world for the better to fashion and beauty to picturesque places found around the globe.