Monday meeting: Scholarship fund ‘helps young people who are helping themselves’

By Jeff Ostrowski
Posted Jan 28, 2019

Tim Snow runs a scholarship fund that has given out millions to Palm Beach County students who struggle to afford the cost of college.
Snow is president of the George Snow Scholarship Fund, a Boca Raton-based nonprofit named for Tim Snow’s father. George Snow died in 1980 when a helicopter he was piloting disappeared over the Bahamas.

The fund gives dozens of scholarships each year. The typical recipient gets a grant totaling $10,000 over four years, although the George Snow Scholarship Fund’s largesse also can extend to computers and medical expenses. The nonprofit recently paid for a recipient’s surgery to have wisdom teeth removed, Snow said.

Hometown: Boca Raton

About your organization: My father moved to Boca Raton in 1958. He came down here to be a high-school math teacher. Later he got into real estate and construction and did pretty well. He had a helicopter charter service, and he died in a helicopter crash in 1980. He was coming back from the Bahamas. He took some media there to cover Haitian immigrants, and he disappeared on the way back. They never recovered his body or the helicopter. We wanted to memorialize him in some way. When he was alive, he was always trying to help young people who were helping themselves. We started this in 1982. In our first year, we gave out $6,000. We’ve grown it to the point where last year, we made commitments totaling about $1.25 million. We have a very extensive application process. The deadline is Feb. 1, and we interview finalists in April. We ask them to bring the financial aid award letters from the college they’re going to attend. If they don’t have a need, we don’t help them.
Where do your scholarship recipients attend school? About 75 percent of our students stay in the state of Florida because they can take advantage of the Bright Futures program. Most of our students wind up at Florida Atlantic University or the University of Florida, but we have students all over the country. Any student going to any school in Palm Beach County can apply for our scholarships.

First job: Working for my father at Snow Construction. But my first job working for somebody else was at a nursery in west Boca. I was in middle school. I did the typical grunt work — moving trees, watering plants, fertilizing plants. It taught me a lot about diving into your work and committing 100 percent to it.

Biggest challenge: Not having enough funding to help all of the young people we want to help. We got over 1,000 applications last year, and we awarded 87 scholarships. We could have doubled that number very easily. Palm Beach County has so many young people who are very smart and who have a need and can accomplish great things if they only get a helping hand.
Best business advice you’ve ever received: Be true to yourself. Always take the high road. Adhere to the highest morals. Those are things my father instilled in me over the years. It’s not like we sat down and had a conversation. He passed those lessons on through osmosis. My dad passed when I was 24 years old, so fortunately he taught us those things early.
How has the recent stock market volatility affected your fund?The volatility in the stock market doesn’t really affect us that much. We invest in a balanced portfolio and try to do about 50 percent stocks and 50 percent fixed income. People might think my father left all this money to us and we just dole it out. But the truth is that every penny we’ve ever given away we’ve raised from the community. Our endowment is $2 million right now.

What do you tell recipients of your scholarships about student loans? Student debt is a huge, huge problem in our country. We want our kids to have a plan. We want our kids to know that if you’re going to make $30,000 a year after you graduate, there’s no point in racking up $120,000 in debt. We live in a very affluent area, but there is no shortage of families who are struggling, particularly as it relates to sending their kid to college. If you’re making $30,000 or $40,000 a year but the cost to attend is $60,000 a year, you’re going to have a problem.

What you see ahead for Palm Beach County: I grew up here. To me, there’s no greater place to live. I do my share of traveling, and I’m always happy when I come back here.
Most important trait you look for when hiring: Passion. As a nonprofit organization, we can’t pay huge salaries. We’re looking for people who are interested in doing something for themselves. We’re fortunate to have a group of people here who all share that passion.