First 'Blue Sapphire' works to generate scholarship support for feature twirler

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Former Blue Band feature twirler Lori Bowers Uhazie knows from experience how important scholarships are for many college students. She could have used financial assistance while attending Penn State, so when she learned that another feature twirler was struggling to pay tuition, Lori and her husband, David, immediately began making payments to create a scholarship endowment for all future feature twirlers at the University.

The Lori Bowers and David Uhazie Endowed Scholarship for Blue Band Feature Twirler was officially established in 2005, five years after the couple began making payments toward that goal. The Blue Band was an important part of both their Penn State careers. Lori, who graduated in 1982 with a bachelor of arts degree in advertising, was the first feature twirler to wear the title “Blue Sapphire.” David, who graduated in 1982 with a bachelor of science degree in finance, played the trumpet and served as the band’s president.

Lori said they established the scholarship to make Penn State more competitive in attracting the nation’s best feature twirlers. “As more universities began offering full scholarships to their twirler, mainly through their athletic departments, Penn State was offering no scholarship at all,” she explained. “Most people think the Blue Band is part of the athletic department and assume the twirler is supported as an athlete.” (The Blue Band’s administrative home is the College of Arts and Architecture.)

Lori said she and David are happy to help relieve a small portion of the current feature twirlers’ college expenses, especially considering the other costs associated with the sport. Matt Freeman, currently in his last year as the Blue Band feature twirler, represents Penn State at national and international competitions at his own expense. He holds six world titles in the sport of baton twirling and won the Collegiate National Twirling Title and Collegiate Down Field Title in both 2012 and 2013.

Matt, a marketing major who hails from California, chose Penn State because it had the “entire package.” “Penn State’s reputation for twirlers is what attracted my attention. And then when I learned about the Smeal College of Business, I knew I had an amazing opportunity to twirl and attend a top business school.”

As an out-of-state student, he said he is grateful the feature twirler scholarship alleviates some of the financial burden. A familiar figure on campus, being the feature twirler has afforded Matt experiences he never anticipated. “I have represented the Blue Band at various events and really served as an ambassador for the University,” he explains. “Here, the position is about more than twirling. It’s not that way at other schools. But at Penn State, being the feature twirler really helps you develop as a person.”

Lori noted that Matt has done a “phenomenal job” on the field and off. “He has spoken on the national level about the good Penn State has to offer, and he has gained so much respect for our institution when we needed it most. We take as much pride in supporting these scholarship recipients as we do our own kids.”

The first scholarship recipient, P.J. Maierhofer, who earned a bachelor of arts degree in advertising/public relations in 2010, “paid it forward” by establishing an annual baton competition, the Blue Sapphire Classic, to raise money for the scholarship endowment. Since it was started in 2010, it has raised more than $70,000. “P.J. is truly selfless and inspiring, and commits to organizing this event each spring, bringing more than 300 baton twirlers from more than a dozen states to our campus,” said Lori. “This has been a real blessing because it has allowed the fund to grow much more quickly than we could do on our own — especially while we are still funding our own sons’ out-of-state Penn State tuition.”

According to Lori, serving as the feature twirler — and fulfilling the "ambassador” roles that come along with job — instilled in her a passion to make a difference. “The spirit that comes from being involved in the Blue Band in such a capacity creates the desire to remain dedicated to the University in many ways. Among many other roles, I have been an admissions volunteer since the day I graduated, directing high school students to Penn State, even when we lived in Singapore and Hong Kong.”

On Saturday, during the Homecoming game, Lori took to the field with hundreds of other Blue Band alumni. “Homecoming with the Blue Band is like a real family reunion — the immediate family within the overall Penn State community. I feel like a sister to the majorettes and band members of my generation, and a mother figure to the younger and current students,” she noted.

Looking to the future, Lori said she doesn’t want good students — and prospective feature twirlers — to sacrifice a quality education by going to a lesser institution that offers more scholarship support. “We would love to one day have a fully funded scholarship for the feature twirler, and we look forward to continuing to support not only great twirlers, but also students who will make a difference at Penn State and beyond.”

As the cost of a Penn State education continues to rise, Lori and David hope to increase the scholarship endowment and provide greater financial assistance to the feature twirler. To make a gift to their named scholarship endowment, call 1-888-800-9163 or visit http://GiveNow.PSU.edu. Click the check box to view giving opportunities and then select “Other.” Type “Bowers Uhazie Endowed Scholarship for Blue Band Feature Twirler” on the “Additional Information” line.
 

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Last Updated June 20, 2014