FSU College of Education Alumni Helping to Alleviate Financial Stress for Students

Images of Tom and Evelyn Vlasak

Tom and Evelyn Vlasak have many cherished memories from their time as students at Florida State University. Both graduates of the FSU College of Education, the couple went on to prosperous careers, but they always remained passionate about one day paying it forward. “I was raised in a very large family from Hamilton County, Florida, and so I had to work [to cover my college expenses],” Evelyn shared. “With no children of our own, we started looking at how we could support students who may not come from the best economic background and afford them the opportunity to attend FSU.”

Together, the Vlasaks generously gifted $165,000 to the FSU College of Education to establish the Tom and Evelyn Smith Vlasak Endowed Education Scholarship, which provides tuition support for deserving education students from Hamilton County or surrounding counties in north Florida.

“You hear the news about students graduating from college with tremendous amounts of debt, and that can be a big weight above their heads,” Tom said. “If we can help alleviate that financial burden, it can make all the difference.”

This past February, the Vlasaks further helped FSU students through an additional contribution of approximately $94,000 to establish the Evelyn Smith Vlasak and Tom Vlasak Endowed Southern Scholarship Foundation Fund. For more than 60 years, the Southern Scholarship Foundation has partnered with institutions of higher learning—including FSU—to support students who demonstrate excellent academic merit, but who lack much-needed financial resources, with rent-free housing and cooperative living options. 

As a former SSF resident, Evelyn expressed her appreciation for the foundation’s mission. “We see high school graduates who would love to attend college, but because of their financial situations, think ‘I can’t do it.’ I had the burden of paying for a place to live lifted off my shoulders thanks to the Southern Scholarship Foundation and we wanted to be able to do the same for others.”

As the couple continues to look at ways of expanding their philanthropic legacies at Florida State, both Tom and Evelyn couldn’t help but speak of how proud they were of their alma mater and the focus the university has placed on the success of its students.

“Florida State, overall, is the whole package,” Tom shared. “Every student we’ve met is so sharp, and the academic excellence FSU has made standard to ensure their success is why FSU is now ranked No. 18 among all public universities [according to U.S. News & World Report.]”

“The College of Education remains thankful for our donors who are dedicated to ensuring our students, especially those who come from more rural parts of the state, have the resources they need to thrive despite economic circumstances,” FSU College of Education Dean Damon Andrew remarked. “The support of our alumni, like the Vlasaks, truly strengthens not only our college but the university’s ability to provide young scholars with an exceptional educational experience.” 

Visit the Florida State University College of Education online to learn more about ways you can support.