Ackerley Scholars Infuse Energy
into Campus and Community

by Randy Meline, director of media relations at Graceland University

The Ackerley Computer Science and Technology Scholars are doing exactly what their benefactors wanted them to do-- pumping energy and actions into the Graceland University campus and the community of Lamoni.

Bojan Raic is one of the scholars and his hometown is Capljina, Bosnia-Herzegovina. His parents are Slobodanka and Vlatko. He says, "I see the Ackerley Program as a great opportunity to get involved in certain aspects of my field I would normally not be able to get involved in. It is also a great way to excel on an academic as well as on a personal level. It is an honor to meet and interact with such brilliant young people such as my fellow scholars. I am certain that being an Ackerley scholar will benefit me throughout my professional career."

It was the goal of Robert and Leland Ackerley to infuse energy into Graceland's computer science program-- make it a premier program-- when they donated $2 million in 2002 to create the Ackerley Scholars program. The entrepreneurial brothers from Houston, TX did not attend Graceland but their ties go all the way back to their great, great grandmother, Marietta Walker, who in 1893 donated the original 20 acres which became the Graceland campus. Their goal for the program is exactly what has happened, according to Dr. Jim Jones, computer science professor and Ackerley program director.

"Bright, energetic students have joined our program," Dr. Jones said, "who might not otherwise have chosen Graceland, and their presence on campus and in the community has made a difference." High school seniors who would like to apply to be part of the 2005-06 Ackerley Scholars program should visit for more information about the program and scholarships. The 2004 incoming freshman who received Ackerley scholarships were offered $3,000 per year. Such awards should be typical in the future. Dr. Jones would like to have all applications in by early March. The application (PDF) file can be found at: The $2 million endowment will assure the program's future and availability of scholarships for many years. The Ackerley brothers own and operate Smith and Associates, an independent worldwide distributor of electronic components and semiconductors. They have hired a number of Graceland graduates.

The seven scholars this year are: Aaron Twombly, a second-year scholar from Highland, KS; Leona Dorothy, a second-year scholar from Creston, IA; and the following five scholars, all in their first year: Bojan Raic, from Capljina, Bosnia-Herzegovina; Samantha Bigger, from Croswell, MI; Marcus Blake Grundman, from Croswell, MI; Chen Sha, from Chengdu, China; and Ammon Horn, from Sibley, MO.

It was a part of the program director's goal that the scholars would assume leadership roles in computer science (CS) and information technology (IT) activities, clubs, and academics, but they have been that and more. They have become house presidents, SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise) members, worked with the computer helpdesk, forged independent scientific research projects, won major math competitions, and they are involved in many clubs and activities such as band, vocal music, academic bowls, drama club, quiz bowls and several sports. More importantly, perhaps, and in keeping with the program's design, they have become information technology and computer science trouble-shooters around campus, working with the campus computer support team, servicing computer workstations and eradicating viruses. They have built up a strong ACM (Association of Computing Machinery) chapter on campus-- bringing notoriety to Graceland through this important, national/international society. They have extended their expertise by assisting with system administration of the various computer labs on campus.

But, it isn't only on campus that the impact of the Ackerley program can be felt. The scholars worked with Linden Street Coffee House owners Marjie and Mike Foster to install and maintain a wireless router. "That made it possible to have a free and open Internet hot spot in downtown Lamoni," according to Dr. Jones. The scholars meet at the coffee house every Tuesday at 5 p.m. to socialize and assist anyone interested in utilizing the wireless technology.

A major project currently underway is to implement an Internet radio system on campus. This is a parallel activity to other efforts on campus to revive the Graceland Radio Club and gear up for the February 18 planned broadcast sign-on on KOWI FM, which will bring National Public Radio to southern Iowa and northern Missouri from WOI radio in Ames. Graceland plans to create a broadcast studio to enable the university to produce features, interviews, performance and athletic broadcasts

The focus for the Ackerley scholars, of course, has been their own computer laboratory, where there are 12 high-powered workstations in the Platz-Mortimore Science Building. This lab is the heart and soul of the program, where the scholars work with Dr. Jones, Assistant Professor of Computer Science Bob Farnham and Associate Professor of Information Technology Kevin Brunner. A powerful new server has been added and Dr. Jones hopes to increase the number of workstations in the CS Lab-- all CS/IT students may use the small lab 24/7, and it stays busy. Dr. Jones also hopes to increase the lab's size and create a more climate-controlled, user-friendly environment, in the near future. The endowment calls for equipment upgrades every three years. Search committees are also currently considering candidates for open CS and IT faculty positions to be filled this fall.

Graceland CS/IT students traveled to the 37th Annual Midwest Instruction and Computing Symposium (MICS) last year and won the robotic competition. They plan to attend MICS this spring with several teams participating in robotics and computer programming competition and one student presenting a paper. The Ackerley program is going strong and Dr. Jones and his colleagues see a bright future on the horizon.

In Lamoni Chronicle, 5/10/05

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