General Motors Co. Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson on Thursday returned to his hometown of Mankato, Minn., to award two students at Mankato West High School with new college scholarships each worth $40,000.
Akerson, who graduated from Mankato High School in 1966, and his wife, Karin, established the Akerson Family Scholarships this year to help a male and female student with their college education.
The Akersons have had a long history of philanthropy, including their time in Detroit where they have donated to Habitat for Humanity Detroit and the Capuchin Soup Kitchen. Akerson visited the school Thursday and presented the scholarships to the winners during an annual honors assembly. GM spokesman Greg Martin said Akerson's old baseball coach was among those in the crowd.
The winning students each will receive $10,000 a year for four years.
"He believes he received a fine education in Mankato, has fond memories of his time in the city and wanted to provide a special opportunity to current students," according to information GM provided about the scholarships.
The Detroit automaker said 28 students applied for the scholarships. Special consideration was given to students with financial needs, who are the first generation to attend college or had other personal challenges. A group of counselors, teachers and administrators selected the winners.
"Dan Akerson believes students who work hard and commit to their education and future should have the opportunity to realize that future, in spite of financial barriers," GM said in a statement. "He also wants to help students attend the college of their dreams -- as he did -- when it otherwise may be financially out of reach."
Akerson graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with a bachelor's degree in engineering and he holds a master's degree in economics from the London School of Economics.
The Free Press in Mankato said Akerson was born in California and moved to Minnesota in the 1950s and to Mankato in 1961. Mankato, Minn. is a city of about 39,000 and is southwest of Minneapolis. The city is home to employers such as the Mayo Clinic Health System and Minnesota State University at Mankato.
GM said the Akerson Family Scholarships program will be evaluated to determine if it will continue.
Akerson also was scheduled to visit with civic leaders and dealers during his time in Minnesota, Martin said.