David Welch, a Maryland businessman and University of Maryland University College (UMUC) alumnus, has donated $25,000 in scholarship money to the Pillars of Strength Foundation to help volunteer caregivers of wounded American servicemembers get a UMUC education.
Welch, who owns Welch and Rushe, a family mechanical contracting company in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, said he was impressed with the impact the scholarship program was having on caregivers and their families.
Since 2013, Pillars of Strength has offered full scholarships to people who have had to postpone careers or their education to care for a severely-wounded loved one who is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan or Iraq. Last year five such scholarships were awarded, bringing to 10 the total number granted to date.
“Through my children and their friends, I’ve gotten to know members of the military community,” Welch said. “I’ve seen what happens to these young people when they come back from their deployment, and a lot of them have changed tremendously.”
Welch, who had not thought about the role of the volunteer caregivers until he had a conversation with Rich Blewitt, whose family foundation created the scholarship along with UMUC, said that he saw helping them as an opportunity for his company to give something significant back to the community.
“These young men and women who are caregivers are basically giving up their careers to help someone who has come back wounded and needing help,” Welch said. “These scholarships are helping these caregivers get their life back after making such a sacrifice.”
Welch’s $25,000 donation will allow one recipient to get a full scholarship to complete a four-year undergraduate degree, Blewitt said, adding that he expects this donation will be a catalyst for many more.
“What David has done is going to become a trend,” Blewitt said. “We believe there will be further scholarship donations that we can announce soon.”
Like many UMUC graduates, Welch had a roundabout route to completing his college education. He started in the 1980s at the University of Maryland but dropped out after his first year to be trained as a pipefitter by Steamfitters Local 602.
That qualified him to work at Welch and Rushe, the family business his father founded in the 1960s that provides construction and maintenance services to government, industrial and commercial customers.
Along the way, Welch said he realized that he still wanted a college degree and enrolled in UMUC because the university provided him a great education with the flexibility of scheduling his classes around his work schedule. In 2006, while working on his degree in business administration, he took over the business from his father. He graduated in 2009, bought the business from his father two years later, and now serves as CEO and president. It is a $60 million a year operation with 200 employees, he said.
Welch has been an ardent UMUC booster since his graduation. He recently joined the Alumni Association Advisory Board and, as a mentor in the Alumni Career Mentor Program, he has assisted several students and alumni in their career advancement. Welch was awarded the UMUC Alumni Association Achiever Award in 2015.
“I sincerely enjoyed my time at UMUC,” Welch said. “I am excited to be on the board as a part of UMUC alumni. As much as I got out of UMUC, I want to take any opportunity I can get to give back to UMUC.”