Bill Dickinson (Cowell, '68)

Smith Renaissance Society supports achievement of independent students

February 09, 2012

Bill Dickinson (Cowell, '68, philosophy), a one-time foster youth, created the Smith Renaissance Society to support other UCSC students who are on their own. He's being honored with the UCSC Foundation Fiat Lux Award at the Scholarship Benefit Dinner, February 25.

As the cost of a University of California education has tripled since 1999, a modest but unique program at UC Santa Cruz has shown remarkable success in helping retain and graduate independent students – former foster youth, wards of the court, homeless youth, orphans, or others who are on their own.

Founded in 1999 as the Page and Eloise Smith Scholastic Society, it was California’s first UC-based comprehensive path to college admission for foster youths and other independent students.

The program provides students with scholarships, but more significantly, says founder Bill Dickinson (Cowell, '68, philosophy) it provides a self-perpetuating community of support.

Over the past 13 years, 232 students have participated, including 67 currently enrolled. With 122 graduates and 12 transfers to other colleges, the graduation rate of Smith Collegiate Fellows, as they are known, is higher than the UC and UCSC average. Only 25 are no longer attending and did not receive a degree. Read more