Scholarship for students with autism officially endowed last month

Ray Chumbler IV gives a check to Jennie Rottinghaus, director of development, to establish the scholarship. Photo courtesy of WKMS

Story by Abby Siegel, News Editor, and Paige Effinger, Contributing writer

Ray Chumbler IV, 2015 Murray State alumnus, founded a scholarship for Murray State students with autism, and it was officially endowed in January.

The scholarship began in 2011 to fulfill the requirements of Chumbler’s high school senior project that had a community service component.  In 2015, the scholarship was transferred to the MSU Foundation.

One of Chumbler’s goals with the scholarship is to financially help students with autism who are applying to college. Because he was once one of these students, he discovered there were no scholarships like these available for students with autism.

Chumbler said it is rare for colleges in the United States to have a scholarship specifically for students with autism.

“Since it’s for autistic students, it obviously means, ‘Hey, autistic people can actually go to college and be successful,’” Chumbler said. “I think this scholarship will make some progress to break down that stigma that surrounds us.”

The scholarship started with $3,000 donated through a raffle component of his senior project. Later, donations were collected to increase the fund. Chumbler set up a table in the Curris Center to collect money in addition to receiving donations from family, friends and other community supporters.

“We usually ask people for a minimum of $5,000, and then they have five years to reach our goal of $25,000,” Jennie Rottinghaus, director of development, said. “The cool thing about Ray’s scholarship is that he helped us endow it in less than two years.”

Once the endowment reaches the self-endowed mark, the funds are invested and the interest earned after a year is used to form the scholarship.

The endowment is permanent, meaning it never has an end date.

“The scholarship is going to be here from now until forever,” Chumbler said.

Currently, a $500 scholarship is given each semester, but Chumbler said the more money that is donated the greater the scholarship can become. He said he hopes to expand the scholarship to more than one recipient per semester.

Chumbler said there is a stigma that assumes autistic people cannot be educated, attend school or be taught to drive.

“Most people, when they hear the word autism, someone like me never ever comes to mind,” Chumbler said.

However, Chumbler both went to college and graduated cum laude and has been driving for five years.

“I think Ray is one of the most kind, enthusiastic and caring young men that I have ever met,” Rottinghaus said. “He is so passionate about this cause – not only raising money but also raising awareness about students on the spectrum.”

Those interested in donating to the Ray IV Autism Scholarship Endowment can contact Jennie Rottinghaus in the Office of Development.