Growing up in Letcher County, Kentucky, Christy Trout Van Tatenhove ’99 often heard from her grandmother, Eva Trout, to “always remember you can have wings, as long as you remember your roots.”

Knowing college was an opportunity to do something drastically different with her life than many relatives and peers had done, Trout Van Tatenhove took her grandmother’s advice. She applied to UofL and was accepted into the McConnell Scholars program. She was the first person in her family to attend college, a move that would prove to be pivotal to her future.

“The McConnell Center instilled in me a sense of confidence and decisiveness that whatever it was that I was going to do, I could do,” she said.

In addition to this confidence, she credits the relationships and extracurricular experiences as outstanding benefits of her time as a scholar. Currently serving as special legal counsel to the speaker of the Kentucky House of Representatives, Trout Van Tatenhove decided it was time to give back to the program that made such an indelible impact on her.

Her $250,000 gift to the McConnell Center includes a scholarship for first-generation students that is named after her grandmother who valued education above all else. Her gift also will support the McConnell Center’s efforts to improve Kentucky’s civic education and allow first-generation students to gain the same experience she had as a student.

“I’m choosing to give back to the McConnell Center because I have a commitment and a belief in what this center does for both its students and the community,” Trout Van Tatenhove said.

Motivated by the center’s profound impact on her, Trout Van Tatenhove encourages others to give back. By donating, she says, alumni can provide opportunities for students who are determined to excel but face challenges in pursuing their education.

“None of us in life, wherever we are, achieved and arrived in that place without the help of others,” Trout Van Tatenhove said. “I am so grateful to be able to take the opportunities and blessings I have in my life and share those with the place that means so much to me but also has so much potential to share and inspire others.”

UofL Magazine
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