Balboa Island Philanthropist Hosts Orangewood Scholars

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Shirley Pepys in front of her decorated home on S. Bayfront. — Photo by Sara Hall ©

Balboa Island resident and philanthropist Shirley Pepys opened her bayfront home last month to celebrate the academic achievements of Orangewood Foundation’s former foster youth.

An emeritus member of the Orangewood board of directors, Pepys hosted a “Friendsgiving” gathering at her house on Nov. 15 (before Orange county moved into the Purple Tier) for current and past recipients of Orangewood Foundation’s Advanced Studies scholarships for graduate school.

These scholarships help former foster youth pursue their dreams of a graduate school education, and as of this fall more than $1 million have been awarded to these students.  Other major Advanced Studies donors in attendance were Dan Houck and Shirley’s daughter, Renee Pepys Lowe (both are residents of Corona del Mar). Pepys, Houck and Lowe started the organization’s advanced studies in 2009.

The trio became aware of an Orangewood college scholarship student who was accepted into a master’s program at Harvard University. However, Orangewood’s scholarship program did not extend to graduate programs. As a result, the three of them created the advanced studies program, and the student successfully earned a master’s degree from Harvard University.

The program is open to former foster youth who have been helped by other Orangewood programs and who have the desire to earn advanced degrees. Since the advanced studies program began, it has provided 160 scholarships totaling more than $1 million to 77 former foster youth. To date, 50 students have completed their advanced degrees or certificate programs, earning masters and doctorates in a variety of fields.

Universities these young scholars have attended include Albany Medical College NY, Boston University, Claremont Graduate University, CSU Fullerton, Emory University, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Purdue University, Texas Women’s University, UC Irvine, and USC, as well as universities in England, Germany, Northern Ireland, and Scotland.

According to Pepys, the program participants come from difficult childhoods as the victims of abuse, neglect or abandonment by their parents, and have overcome tremendous odds and are now pursuing masters and doctorate degrees throughout the United States.

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