Kents’ generosity leads to undergraduate Olin scholarships

For a handful of business majors, entering Washington University this fall will be a dream come true. Their dream became reality through the generosity of Jerald and Judy Kent. The Kents have made a $3 million commitment to support undergraduate scholarships in the John M. Olin Business School.

Beginning in the 2008-09 academic year, the Jerry and Judy Kent Scholarships will be awarded to approximately five freshmen each year for the next seven years, and they will remain Kent Scholars for four years in Olin’s BSBA program. One freshman each year will be selected through a merit-based competition; the remaining awardees will be based on both merit and financial need.

“The Kents have chosen a gift that will make a critical and immediate impact on the Olin School, the University and in the lives of many talented students,” said Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. “Scholarships open doors and create opportunities that may not otherwise have been possible. I am so grateful for the Kents’ generosity and proud to have these scholarships that bear their name.”

Mahendra Gupta, Ph.D., dean and the Geraldine J. and Robert L. Virgil Professor of Accounting and Management at Olin Business School, shared Wrighton’s enthusiasm.

“Our Kent Scholars will benefit not only from the much-needed financial support but also from the Kents’ confidence in them, which their financial commitment represents,” Gupta said.

“The Kent Scholars and the Kent family will share a special bond throughout their lifetimes. The impact of the Kents’ gift will have a monumental effect on our undergraduate program for years to come. I am humbled by and thankful for their gift,” Gupta said.

Jerry Kent’s bond with the University began as a business administration major; he earned a BSBA in 1978 and a master’s degree a year later. Today, he is a member of the Board of Trustees and serves on the National Council. He received Olin’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2002.

After graduation, he joined accounting firm Arthur Andersen, where he discovered Cencom Cable, a fledgling cable operator. In the early 1980s, the cable industry was developing in fits and starts and considered a risky venture. Channeling his entrepreneurial spirit, Jerry joined the company in 1983. A decade later, he launched Charter Communications.

Through acquisitions, Charter became one of the largest cable communications companies in the industry, employing more than 15,000 people in 28 states. Kent served as president and chief executive officer of Charter through 2001 and then occupied the same positions for a new company, Cequel III LLC, an investment and management firm that develops cable and telecommunications companies.

When Charter was sold to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 1998 and went public about a year later, it was the third-largest initial public offering in U.S. history, and Charter was the fourth- largest cable operator in the country.

Under Cequel, Kent co-manages Suddenlink Communications (formerly known as Cebridge Connections Holdings LLC), one of the nation’s largest broadband cable companies. Until 2006, he also managed AAT Communications Corp., which owned and operated towers. In 2005, the firms were two of the St. Louis region’s largest revenue producers among privately-held companies.

Both Judy and Jerry have strong ties to the St. Louis community, which is reflected in their volunteer engagements. Judy serves on the board of trustees for Stages St. Louis and the Judevine Center for Autism. She co-owns Vie, a women’s clothing boutique.

In addition to giving his time and talents to the University, Jerry serves his home community as a board member of The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum; the Saint Louis Zoo; and Regional Justice Information Services.

He lends his professional expertise to a number of advisory groups, including Cable in the Classroom, and is on the board of directors of the Cable Center, C-SPAN, CableLabs and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.