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For genration after generation

Ed and Eileen Stankey, a truck driver and a teacher’s aide, sacrificed much to send their son Bill to the University of Dayton, hoping that he could escape the financial worries the family endured throughout his childhood.

They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Forty years after becoming the first college graduate in the family, Bill Stankey ’80 is president and founder of Westport Entertainment Associates, a prominent talent negotiation firm. Stankey represents an array of celebrity clients through his firm, including Chip and Joanna Gaines of HGTV’s Fixer Upper, and he has secured talent for some of the most prestigious companies in the world, including Microsoft and Johnson & Johnson.

Bill Stankey’s road to financial freedom was far from smooth. For example, early in his career, he landed a job at an entertainment agency in New York City making only $100 a week. How did he make do? “You go to happy hour, eat the wings … you figure out a way to get by. You don’t date,” he said, with a smirk.

Getting through UD was even a struggle. Going into his last semester, he found himself $700 short on tuition. However, thanks to some available scholarship funds facilitated by then-athletic director Tom Frericks, Stankey was able to finish his schooling and embark on his career.

Now, in honor of all his parents did for him, Stankey is able to pay back — and greatly amplify — the scholarship support he received with a $1 million commitment establishing the aptly named Pay It Forward Scholarship.

Once fully funded, the endowment will provide four $10,000 annual scholarships to first-generation college students, like himself, to ease the financial burden often tied to receiving an exceptional education.

For me, that fear of financial difficulty was paralyzing as a part of my life and if I can relieve that for somebody, that’s a good use of that money,” Stankey said.

In addition, Stankey wants to share his personal experiences with recipients to help them navigate their time at the University.

“That freshman year, when I wanted to pout about a girl back home in Indiana and wanted to think, ‘none of my buddies are here,’ I isolated myself — I had no connection here,” he explained. “When I got out of my own way, and just got a little bit involved, it made a difference … and there’s no better way to get out of your head than to lift up your hand to somebody else.”

Through such generosity and involvement, Stankey hopes that he can pay forward the transformative experience he had at the University.

“My life changed as a result of having the opportunity to go to college. And it changed dramatically as a result of being at the University of Dayton,” Stankey said, holding back emotion. “This place is truly special in terms of the sense of the community that you get here.”

Scholarship infographic

Learn more about current UD students whose lives have been changed by the power of scholarships.

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For years, Bill Stankey struggled with alcoholism, but found respite 21 years ago. “I walked into an AA meeting one day and never drank after that,” he said. “I just stopped, and it was by the grace of God.”

Despite working within an industry beset with cocktail parties and gatherings, Stankey has no desire to pick up a drink — but stays actively involved with AA, nonetheless. “In order for it to work, you have to remain a part of it,” he emphasized. “That’s why I still go to meetings … because someone was there when I walked through the door.”

Bill Stankey '80


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