September 2019 Scholarship Recipients

September 09, 2019
Seanna Asper

Seanna Asper (Vacaville, CA) is the spouse of an Active Duty Air Force Captain, with whom she was high school sweethearts.  After their graduation, they attended NC State together.  “He told me, ‘I think I might do this ROTC thing,’ and I said, ‘Oh, that sounds like a fun club!’  Eventually, the realization of what was happening hit.”  Prior to their first assignment, Seanna was able to finish her accounting degree and get married.  They were sent to Columbus, MS and from there, her husband’s career took off, but Seanna had a different experience.  “That was a transition for me, because I was used to being the academic achiever, having all my plans in place, and then I took on this support role.  People don’t know what to say to a military spouse [about career plans] so they don’t say anything.”

After going on to complete a Master’s degree in Accounting and earn her CPA license, Seanna started working for her family’s construction company.  “I finally got an accounting job in Mississippi, but I wasn’t using my full skillset,” Seanna said.  “It was very much just tax preparation.  I’m more interested in financial analysis – and correcting people’s QuickBooks data wasn’t very fulfilling.  I thought to myself, I can’t do this anymore.”  Eager for a change, she started a Ph.D., but that didn’t satisfy her desire to help others, either.  “I wasn’t having the impact on people that I wanted to have,” she said. “I want to share my knowledge of accounting and finances with others to help improve their lives.”  To round out her education, Seanna has her sights set on completing the ChFC® curriculum and later sitting for the CFP exam.  This education, combined with Seanna’s natural knack for planning, will set her up for a very successful career, and we can’t wait to see where she goes next.  Congratulations!

This scholarship is possible through the generosity of Col. Irwin Gorman USAF (ret), and as always, The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company.

Andrew Brooks

Andrew Brooks (Tempe, AZ) joined the Army in 2008 and spent most of his time uniform in Iraq as a military police officer, working with the Iraqi police looking for IEDs.  Andrew says that his time in the Army set him up for success in his current role of Financial Solutions Advisor with Bank of America and Merrill.  “My military experience allowed me to understand the importance of attention to detail,” he says.  “Attention to detail is very key [in this role].  From beginning to end, interacting with a client is about picking up on the things that they are saying and what they’re not saying.”  To boost his natural skillset, Andrew will be completing the Chartered Financial Consultant program, and is eager for his clients to reap the benefits.  “I have a lot of clients; I’m one of the highest rated individuals in BOA and ML.  I put a lot of energy into working with my clients to get them to their goals.”  We are excited to help Andrew continue to serve others and we wish him the best in his studies! 

This scholarship is possible through the generosity of Robert Miller and as always, The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company.

David Johnson

David Johnson (Poughquag, NY) entered the Army as a Special Forces recruit after graduating from college in 2010.  After his basic and specialized training he went on to complete the extensive training to become a Green Beret.  David deployed to the Middle East in combat and intelligence positions three times during his eight years of service, becoming fluent in Modern Standard Arabic in the process. 

He separated from the Army at the rank of Staff Sergeant in April of 2019 and is hard at work on a new chapter of life.  “I’ve been a civilian for about four months now,” David says.  “And now I’m working to be the best I can be at that.” He’s doing well so far -- he recently started working for AXA Advisors and earned his series 7 and his series 66 licenses.  Now he wants to expand on his education and learn more about his new profession.  “My goal is to be the most effective financial professional I can be and provide the highest quality service for my clients.” David says.  “I feel my largest handicap is my lack of industry knowledge.”  Next on David’s to-do list is the Chartered Financial Consultant® designation, which will provide him with a solid foundation to build this new career upon.  We are so impressed by David’s accomplishments and we wish him the best of luck!  Congratulations!

This scholarship is possible through the generosity of Jack Turner & Associates and as always, The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company.

Kevin Laird

Kevin Laird (Westminster, MD) spent an impressive 29 years in the army, attaining the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 4, and was able to spend all of it doing what he loves – playing and teaching music.  “I was very fortunate,” Kevin says of his time in uniform.  He was finishing a graduate school music program when he received a call from one of his classmates – who was now working at the Armed Forces School of Music.  “I was expecting to be a public school music teacher – I had never thought about military music!”  Kevin auditioned to join the Army Band program and went on to teach music theory and ear training at the school of music.  During his tenure, he got not one, but two of his dream jobs – directing the Jazz Knights at West Point, and leading the Army Jazz Ambassadors – the Army’s official touring jazz ensemble.  “We were on the road 120 days a year, telling the Army’s story,” Kevin says. 

A few years before retiring from the Army, Kevin started thinking about his next career.  “I started asking myself what I like to do, and everything led me to the CFP®.”  He completed a Masters in Financial Planning and then six months after his Army retirement, Kevin sat for and passed the CFP® exam.  Now, Kevin works for the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, working with service members’ retirement plans. “I want to provide the best possible information to Federal civilians and military service members regarding their retirement planning and investments in the Federal Thrift Savings Plan,” Kevin says.  To that end, he’ll be expounding on his CFP® education by completing the Chartered Financial Consultant® program, which will give round out his skillset and allow him to provide the best advice to his clients.  We’re proud of Kevin’s accomplishments, and we can’t wait to see what he does next.  Congratulations!

This scholarship is possible through the generosity of Prudential, and as always, The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company.

Donald Pearson

Donald Pearson (Doral, FL) is an Active Duty Marine Corps First Lieutenant and graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. “I never really thought about joining the military,” he says.  “But I was looking for a place to play football in college.  Football was my path in to the military.”  After completing his basic training, Donald applied for and received a financial management position, working as a budget officer.  “It’s been three years so far and this job has been the greatest blessing of my life,” he says.

Donald plans to learn all that he can in the next few years to make his transition to civilian life as smooth as possible.  “I realize I was getting good experience with the basics of financial management, but I still needed the applicable skills,” he says. He completed his MBA at the end of 2018 and he has his post-military sights set on wealth management.  A prospective future employer has encouraged him to check out the CFP® program, and from there Donald learned about the Chartered Financial Consultant® program.  Now, his path ahead is clear: complete the ChFC® curriculum and sit for the CFP® exam prior to his separation from the Marine Corps.  We’re proud of what Donald has accomplished and we thank him for his service.  Congratulations!!

This scholarship is possible through the generosity of Gary and Lindy Sitzmann, and as always, The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company.

Steven Ritter

Steven Ritter (Stamford, CT) spent ten years in the Marine Corps, and spent most of those ten years flying.  “It was planned somewhat,” Steven says.  “I was in Boy Scouts.  I always had the inclination – I always wanted to be a pilot.”  He earned an Air Force scholarship to Texas A&M, but before his graduation, he swapped to the Marine Corps on a pilot contract.  Steven’s time in uniform revolved around flying the famous V22 Osprey, which he describes as “though finicky in the beginning, they had worked most of the bugs out by the time I got there.” 

Upon his separation from the Marine Corps, Steven lucked into an agent position with New York Life.  “I was trying to get a flying job with the Border Patrol,” he says. “But the hiring process was 18-24 months long, and I needed a job in the meanwhile.  One interview, one job offer from New York Life and I never looked back.  All things considered, it’s been a blessing.”  Steven has worked his way up the ladder, earning his securities licenses and finding a nice niche within the employee benefits sphere. To jumpstart his financial services education, Steven is jumping headfirst into the Chartered Life Underwriter® (CLU®) program, and then has his sights set on the ChFC® and CFP®.  When asked about his favorite part of his job, Steven replied, “Its working with people.  I just help people every day.”  We’re thrilled to help Steven continue to serve others, and we wish him the best in his studies. 

This scholarship is possible through the generosity of New York Life and as always, The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company.

Michael Russell

Michael Russell (Olathe, KS) was working on a bachelor’s degree and feeling burnt-out when he decided he needed a change.  “There was an Army National Guard Armory right across the street from my school,” he says.  “I always wanted to be a soldier, I always wanted to serve my country.”  He signed up and was quickly sent off to basic training.  After basic, he returned to school until he was deployed to Iraq for a year in 2007.  “I joined to do a combat role, but when I got over there they needed prison guards, so that’s what I did.”  Upon his return home, he picked up where he left in his degree, and then went on to get a second bachelor’s as well as an MBA.  “It was during that time I got interested in financial services,” Michael says.  He’s currently an investment manager and recently sat for and passed the CFP® exam!  Looking to expand his skillset, Michael will be completing the Masters of Science in Financial Services with a concentration in retirement planning, which will equip him with the high-level skills he needs to move into a client-facing role. “I have an obligation to my company’s clients to be as knowledgeable of financial planning topics as possible,” Michael says.  “I try to put myself in client’s shoes. If I were seeking the advice of a financial planning professional, I would want them to be experienced and extremely proficient.” We think Michael is on the right track and we can’t wait to see where he goes next with his education.  Congratulations!

This scholarship is possible through the generosity of New York Life and as always, The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company.

Alec Sankey

Alec Sankey (Scottsdale, AZ) spent six years in the Air Force – achieving the rank of Captain -- but he has always had a natural knack for numbers.  During an elementary school math test his teacher told him, “Alec, when you’re done, use your test as the answer key; I’m going outside for a smoke.”    Prior to his transition from the Air Force, he was the Controller in charge of the $675 million budget for the Air Force’s second largest base.  Now with Wells Fargo, Alec says, “I want to be a financial advisor for the rest of my working life.”  Alec loves to help people; he says he joined the financial services industry because he wants to continue helping people as he did while serving his country.  Having recently completed the Chartered Financial Consultant® designation Alec is now specializing his education by undertaking the Chartered Special Needs Consultant® designation, which will allow him to better serve families with special needs family members.  We’re so proud of what Alec has accomplished thus far, and we can’t wait to see what he does next!

This scholarship is possible through the generosity of the Marigold N. Saunders fund, and as always, The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company. 

Jairmiya St. Hilaire

Jairmiya St. Hilaire (Tampa, FL) enlisted in the Navy in 2012 after two years of college and says the experience was an education.  “Four deployments taught me that the world doesn’t really revolve around me,” he says.  “It was a lot of learning about myself, how I interact with people and understanding that working with a team is a lot better than working on your own.”  After separating from the Navy in 2017 at the rank of Petty Officer Second Class, Jairmiya relocated to Last Vegas.  He spent some time working in real estate, but was offered an opportunity to join Northwestern Mutual in 2018.  After earning his series 6 and 63, he moved back home to Florida to take care of his elderly grandfather.  “It was tough,” he says.  “But, I got through it and I’m building thigs back up again.” 

Jairmiya is serious about his success in this career and understands the importance of continuing education.  He’ll be completing the Chartered Financial Consultant® program and understands that the knowledge he’ll gain isn’t the only benefit.  “I just want to be as credible as I can, as quickly as I can,” he says. “Earning the ChFC® will add to my credibility.”  We’re thrilled to help Jairmiya and we wish him the best in his program.  Bravo Zulu!

This scholarship is possible through the generosity of OneAmerica and as always, The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company.

David Stanton

David Stanton’s (Lafayette, IN) goal, from the age of eight, was to serve in the U.S. Navy.  When asked about the highlights of his 28-year career, David says, “The whole thing was a highlight as far as I’m concerned!” He retired in 2008 as a Commander; after a total of eight years on active duty during three activations and 20 years drilling with the selected reserves. In his civilian life, David is married, has two sons, three stepsons, and anticipates his fourth step-grandchild this fall.  He built a successful 30 year career as an insurance claims adjuster, but recently left the organization.  “I was ‘invited to retire,’” David says.  He is now pursuing a new path; ideally one with an organization like the VA, which would enable him to continue serving his country. 

To improve his marketability, David plans to earn his Masters of Science in Management (MSM) degree, which will enhance the leadership skills honed over decades of service. David is a big believer in teamwork, saying, “If you’re not a team player in the military, you’re dead.  If you go to bat for your people, they’ll go to bat for you.” We are confident that any team David is in charge of will be in good hands, and we wish him the best with his coursework.  Bravo Zulu!

This scholarship is possible through the generosity of The Marigold N. Saunders Education Fund and as always, The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company.