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Lighting ‘fires’: $1 million gift gives 50 students a shot at college

March 3, 2016
Robert Carr shakes hands with NIU President Doug Baker after announcing a $1 million gift from the Give Something Back Foundation to Northern for 50 Pell Grant-eligible students from Illinois high schools.

Robert Carr shakes hands with NIU President Doug Baker after announcing a $1 million gift from the Give Something Back Foundation to Northern for 50 Pell Grant-eligible students from Illinois high schools.

The Give Something Back Foundation (GSBF) will give $1 million to allow 50 Pell Grant-eligible students from Illinois high schools to pursue a college education at NIU and graduate with a degree in four years at no cost.

“The Give Something Back Foundation is proud to partner with Northern Illinois University to provide a college education to students who may otherwise not have the opportunity,” said Robert Carr, founder of GSBF. “NIU shares our mission of helping Pell Grant-eligible students realize their full potential.”

Carr also serves as chairman and CEO of Princeton, N.J.-based Heartland Payment Systems, one of the largest payment processors in the United States.

“We are honored to receive such a generous gift that has the potential to positively affect so many young lives,” said NIU President Doug Baker.

“This support will bring bright, talented first-generation college students to NIU and put them on the path to success as engaged citizens and in their chosen careers. The Give Something Back Foundation is an ideal partner in our mission of making a high-quality education accessible to students from all walks of life. We are deeply grateful.”

Beginning in Carr’s hometown of Lockport, Ill., the foundation aims to award scholarships to 2,000 high-striving students who do not have the financial resources to attend college. This year the foundation expanded to Delaware and New Jersey.

Give Something Back Foundation logoStudents supported by the Give Something Back Foundation are identified in ninth grade and assigned a mentor, who advises them, helps them prepare to succeed in college and provides assistance in assessing career and college choices. This program is designed to graduate students from college in four years and funds their complete tuition and room and board. The foundation works closely with students to help them leave college free of debt so they can get their careers under way and give something back, instead of being shackled with student loan debt.

The $1 million donation to NIU will fund 50 scholarships. Beginning this fall, GSBF will select the first 12 students and continue selecting students for three more years. The first students are expected to enroll at NIU in the fall of 2019.

About Robert Carr and Heartland Payment Systems

While growing up in Lockport, Carr received a $250 scholarship from the Lockport Woman’s Club to help him attend college. He was so inspired by the gesture that he vowed to give back to other students and has done so through GSBF.

Robert Carr

Robert Carr

Carr is the co-author of “Through the Fires: An American Story of Turbulence, Business Triumph and Giving Back” and is currently working on a second book about helping young working-class people attend college without going into debt.

Carr built Heartland from a modest start-up with 25 employees in 1997 into a Fortune 1000 company that today employs more than 4,300. Heartland’s clients include major retail chains, restaurants, mom-and-pop stores, websites, colleges and school districts in some of America’s largest cities.

In an age of increasing cyber assaults, Carr has led Heartland to become a gold standard in security strategy. After a remarkable recovery from the 2008 international hacking conspiracy, Heartland emerged as a champion in the fight against cybercrime.

On Dec. 15, 2015, Global Payments Inc., an Atlanta-based worldwide provider of payment technology services, announced it had entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Heartland for $4.3 billion, and Robert Carr announced he would devote his time to work full time with the Give Something Back Foundation, which was started in 2003 and incorporated in 2006.