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|Santa Monica Residents Help African-American Students||
By Lookout Staff
February 27, 2012 -- Santa Monica residents Joe and Nancy Owens want to give African-Americans the chance they were given to have careers successful enough to help others.The retired Sunset Park couple, who established the Nancy and Joe Owens Opportunity Fund for African American high school students entering Santa Monica College, has recently created a similar fund for continuing African American students.
Together, the two funds are endowed with a total contribution of $90,000 that will provide scholarships to SMC students ranging from $500 to $2,000 each. Six students have received scholarships to date.
"My wife and I both believe in higher education, and we both wouldn't have been able to do what we did without scholarships in college," Joe Owens said.
The son of a Texas tenant farmer and the youngest of eight children, Joe, as well as his wife Nancy, who grew up on a farm in Tennessee, were the recipients of college scholarships.
Joe -- who worked for Hughes Aircraft Co. for nearly 30 years as an aerospace engineer designing radar components for fighter aircraft -- attended Texas A&M, thanks to a scholarship from the W.P. and Bulah Luce Trust Fund.
He received his bachelor's degree in 1961 in electrical engineering and a master's in electrical engineering in 1963 from the University of Illinois, where he met Nancy, who earned her master's degree from the University of Illinois in home economics.
Nancy went on to teach at Mark Twain Junior High School in West Los Angeles and at Long Beach City College before embarking on a 35-year career at Cal State Northridge. She earned a Ph.D. from USC. Nancy, who retired in 2003, is currently helping to document items in CSUN's historical costume collection.
The couple's dream to help others was fulfilled after Joe read "Blood Done Sign My Name," a book about how the 1970 murder of Henry Marrow, a black man in Oxford, N.C., helped galvanize the civil rights movement throughout the state.
"That inspired me to say I wanted to do something for people worse off than me," said Joe, who retired in 1993. "I grew up in the segregated South and I saw how black people were mistreated.
"So I thought of African American kids and I wanted to do something locally and that's what made me think of Santa Monica College."
The couple has also endowed scholarships at other colleges and universities and has provided scholarships to nephews and nieces, as well as great nephews and nieces.
"Some years," Joe said with a smile, "we spend a good deal of money on our relatives."
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