Earl & Sue Steele Family Scholarship established at Murray State University

Earl & Sue Steele Family Scholarship established

By Tina Bernot | Jun 9, 2022

Earl and Sue Steele

The “Earl & Sue Steele Family Scholarship” was generously established and endowed at Murray State University in July of 2021 by Suzzette (Suzi) Steele Chapman and her husband, Ken Chapman, with the purpose of assisting first-generation students pursuing a career in biological sciences and to honor Suzi’s parents, Earl and Sue Steele, for their dedication to family and service to others.

MURRAY, Ky. — The “Earl & Sue Steele Family Scholarship” was generously established and endowed at Murray State University in July of 2021 by Suzzette (Suzi) Steele Chapman and her husband, Ken Chapman, with the purpose of assisting first-generation students pursuing a career in biological sciences and to honor Suzi’s parents, Earl and Sue Steele, for their dedication to family and service to others. 

Earl Steele was a native and lifelong resident of Calloway County. After graduating from Concord High School in New Concord, Kentucky, he dreamed of attending college, but even with the GI Bill, he couldn’t afford it. Instead, Earl founded Steele and Allbritten Plumbing and Electric in Murray, which he operated until 1992. He was an honest, hardworking business owner who became close friends with his many loyal customers over the years. 

Sue Coplen Steele was a graduate of Cuba High School in Cuba, Kentucky, located in Graves County. She attended Murray State University for one year, majoring in Home Economics and residing in Swann Hall. It was while she attended Murray State that she met her future husband. Sue was a stay-at-home mom who served as 4-H leader, home room mother and hospital volunteer, among other non-paid roles that are important in preparing young women for adulthood.

Even though Earl and Sue didn’t graduate from college, they always encouraged and assisted their children, grandson and friends to do so. As a result, their daughter, Suzi Steele Chapman, became a first-generation college student, graduating from Murray State with an undergraduate degree in history and English and a master’s degree in education. She served for 30 years as a college administrator. Suzi’s husband, Ken, saw his life change when he received an agriculture scholarship at East Texas State University where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees.  Ken used his education to become an employee benefits expert and partner in the Bigham-Kliewer-Chapman-Watts Insurance Agency.  

Because Earl and Sue Steele were committed to education and had to sacrifice their dreams, Suzzette and Ken honored them with this opportunity for Murray State students. 

Suzi states, "Both of my parents thought that one of the greatest achievements in life was education. They never had the educational opportunities that they provided to their children and others. Endowing a scholarship for a first-generation college student honors my parents' value of education and the potential it has for changing lives. We hope that the recipients will take advantage of this opportunity to make this a better world and, in doing so, honor the memory of our parents.”

Recipients of this fund shall be junior or senior students, majoring in the wildlife biology track within the Wildlife and Conservation program at Murray State. First preference shall be given to first-generation college students, with second preference given to residents of Calloway County, Kentucky. Full and part-time applicants with financial need shall be considered. 

Emma Purcell of Mayfield, Kentucky and Jessie Fortune of Newburgh, Indiana, have been selected as the first two recipients of the Steele Scholarship.

The timing of their awards is even more special due to the fact that the Hancock Biological Station is celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer. Individuals interested in establishing a scholarship or have questions about giving to Murray State University can call the Murray State Office of Development at 1-877-282-0033 or 270-809-3001.

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