Documents show few Jennings scholarships; Gannett Foundation gave $159,250 in four years

[Income tax return shows the Gannett Foundation awarded
$42,250 in Madelyn P. Jennings scholarships in 2007]

Hard to believe, isn’t it? The Gannett Foundation apparently gave only $42,250 in college scholarships to employees’ children in 2007 — a year when the company employed 46,000 workers, according to public documents. That would be just 14 Madelyn P. Jennings Scholarships, based on the contest’s current $3,000 award value.

Those numbers appeared so low that I dived back into the foundation’s four most recent public income tax returns to learn more. But it turns out that 2007 wasn’t an anomally, if these reported annual totals are accurate:

  • 2004: $39,000
  • 2005: $39,000
  • 2006: $39,000
  • 2007: $42,250

That’s $159,250. For fall 2010, each scholarship is a one-time award of $3,000, sent to the winner’s college as a single payment. (Application instructions.)

Now, there are several reasons why these figures might be so low — but lack of money shouldn’t be one. In 2007 alone, the foundation donated $11.3 million to non-profits across the country. That included $320,000 in grants that CEO Craig Dubow and 15 other current and former executives steered toward scholarship funds at their alma maters, and to other pet charities, under a perquisite available to only the well-paid top brass. (Noteworthy examples.)

Of course, average employees aren’t so fortunate, according to foundation rules for everyone else: “The only scholarship program currently funded by the foundation is the Madelyn P. Jennings Scholarship Program for children of Gannett employees.”

Possible explanations
I can only imagine what foundation Executive Director Tara Connell would say about this, given that she’s not talking to me. (Indeed, I’m still waiting for Connell, who also is Gannett’s spokeswoman, to explain the whereabouts of $40,000 in other foundation money.)

Maybe there’s a pile of other Jennings scholarships disclosed somewhere else; I could only find one page summarizing the grants in the tax returns. Perhaps the scholarships aren’t getting promoted enough. Maybe the qualifications are too tough, or the application process too daunting. (Basically, college-bound high school seniors must score well on the PSAT/NMSQT test, plus meet other criteria.)

Whatever the reasons, Gannett Blog readers want to know more. “Where is that list of award winners?” Anonymous@4:35 p.m. asked yesterday. “We applied when my daughter was a junior, too. I was dismayed when we didn’t hear a single thing back — not even a, ‘tnx for applying’ note.”

How to apply for 2010 scholarships
Deadline for fall 2010 college enrollment is Feb. 28, 2009, for high school students who took the standardized PSAT/NMSQT test this fall. (Details, here.)

Got a Jennings experience to share? Post it in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar.

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