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Giving back to help students learn

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The UW System Board of Regents recently voted to give its president a $73,000 pay raise. 

President Reilly is donating $70,000 of that money back to the UW Foundation to help students pay for school.

Sneha Shresta is a fairly typical student at the University of Wisconsin.

She's getting an education, and found scholarship money to help pay for it.

When she heard System President Kevin Reilly was giving $70,000 of his own money fund those scholarships, she was delighted.

"Well I think it's a really good thing," Shresta says.  "I mean there are a lot of students who can't go to school because they can't afford it, or there are so many of my friends who are just working their way through school, and it's so much harder for them.  So I think anything to just make it easier for students to concentrate on school is better."

Ellen Zweibel is an astronomy and physics professor who decided to donate $25,000 to the UW Foundation in memory of her father.

"I've been really moved by how hard a lot of students work ... students who work enormously hard with their schoolwork, and also with jobs," Zweibel says.

She wants to give young people some help.

"My father didn't graduate from college, but he thought about becoming a chemist. So I thought that maybe I could have a scholarship that you know for someone in astronomy physics or chemistry," Zweibel says. 

Somewhere between 1903 and 1918, UW President Charles Van Hise said the university needs to work for the benefit of all. Well, roughly 100 years later it appears that message is being delivered and preserved by people like President Reilly and Professor Zweibel. Not by what they say, but by what they do.

Ellen Zweibel and Kevin Reilly are making very different salaries - but both are making a difference in students' lives.

Kevin Reilly says the Riley family donation is from the heart.  He wants young people to understand two things.

"Number one, it's really important for your own personal future and success that you have a college credential of some kind," President Reilly says.  "And number two, we're going to help you financially do that.

That means these students will have a much tougher time in the real world if they don't complete their college degree. They appear to get it -- because even on a gorgeous day, they are hitting the books -- and making progress toward that degree.

Professor Zweibel and President Reilly are helping make sure money doesn't get in the way.

It's not just academic types making a difference here. 

Assistant UW Police Chief Dale Burke is also a donor.

"The university has given me a lot in the last 29 years," Asst. Chief Burke says.  "Me kind of paying back a small portion of that is I think the least I can do."

"A grant of one or two thousand dollars can make a huge difference for a kid," Professor Zweibel says. 

These three people come from different disciplines but are still connected to the system are making sure that happens.

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