Shirley Pepys owns one of the oldest homes on Balboa Island, and is president of the Balboa Island Museum & Historical Society. She is also an annual winner of the Ring of Lights contest every December.
But Pepys has another passion—helping former foster kids go on to college, specifically graduate school.
Pepys has been involved for many years with the Orangewood Children’s Foundation, where she is on the Emeritus board. Her daughter, Renee Pepys Lowe, is on the Orangewood board.
Six years ago, Pepys heard about an Orangewood student who had finished her undergraduate work through an Orangewood scholarship and wanted to go on to a graduate program. However, the Orangewood fund does not cover grad work.
Enter Pepys, who learned that the girl, Kim, who had grown up in a foster home, had been accepted to Harvard but had no idea how she would get there. Pepys met the girl, realized she needed help, and she – along with some friends – contributed the money needed for college.
Since then, Pepys and her daughter – along with CdM resident Dan Houke – launched the Advanced Studies Scholarship Fund as
part of Orangewood, but restricted for use only by graduate students.
“We manage the fund and fund the fund,” said Pepys, who recently held a party at her home to celebrate recent graduates who used the fund to go to school. “We started a golf tournament and had the proceeds go to our fund. We raised about half a million dollars, which got the fund started. We don’t do the golf tournament anymore because it’s so much work, so right now the three of us are funding it.”
Peppy’s money is well spent. Since the Advanced Studies Program was launched, it has achieved impressive statistics: 37 students funded, 74 scholarships awarded, 24 graduates, and $539,178 in scholarship funds distributed. Pepys and her daughter get to know the students, and stay in touch with most of them.
Pepys said that while the fund currently relies on private donations, she’d welcome corporations and others to get involved.
“A neighbor read about it and gave me $10,000, so you never know,” said Pepys. “All you have to do is tell the story. It’s an easy sell.”
For more information, email Shirley Pepys at [email protected]