From Karl Thurmond’s perspective, it’s no secret what makes a middle and high school education at Milken so exceptional. “Milken truly sees its students and understands them,” Thurmond says. “My daughter, Abigail, is a unique kid who marches to the beat of her own drum. The school appreciated that and allowed her to flourish.” The bottom line, he says: “Milken got her, and that set her up for success.”
Thurmond has long channeled his enthusiasm for Milken into service on the school’s behalf. He sat on the Board of Trustees for three years (one of them as Vice Chair) and co-chaired both the Milken Capital Campaign and the Annual Giving Fund. Abigail graduated from 2018, but Thurmond is still stepping up to secure the school’s legacy – most recently by establishing the Thurmond Family Scholarship Endowment Fund.
Awarded to one Milken sixth grader, the need-based scholarship remains with that student as long as he or she remains at the school and qualifies for assistance. “I want to do everything possible to make sure that, if there’s a Jewish kid in L.A. who wants to attend a Jewish middle and high school, they have the opportunity to do so,” Thurmond says. “Creating this endowment was one small way of reaching for that goal.”
It was his daughter’s Milken experience that sold Thurmond on investing in the school. “Abigail loves learning for the sake of it. It was never important to her to be a straight A student – she did well at Milken, but was much more focused on doing work outside the classroom,” he recalls.
“She created an app that was for sale on Apple’s App Store in middle school. It was a dual binary numerical calculator, and was downloaded over two thousand times all over the world,” he continues. “As a high school freshman, she entered the prestigious Conrad Challenge, which encourages students to create products or services to address pressing global challenges, and she was the only ninth-grader at Milken to place as a finalist. She turned the 47-page paper she wrote for the competition into a patent on a unique battery system for electric cars.”
Abigail was an exceptional learner, but it was Milken, Thurmond says, that made her achievements possible. “They realized she wanted more than just to sit in a classroom,” he says. “Her teachers and the school’s administrators nurtured her interests and facilitated her progress, creating an environment that supported Abigail and allowed her to thrive.”
Today, Abigail is a junior at Wesleyan University, and Thurmond is a passionate advocate for the tools and resources a Milken education provides. “I’m very appreciative of everything Milken gave to Abigail, and I think very highly of what Sarah [Shulkind, head of school] is doing to take the school to the next level,” he says. “I believe a Milken education is life-changing, and that the value you get out of it, you simply can’t get anywhere else.”
Enabling other students to leverage that value was a key part of his impetus to set up the Thurmond Family Scholarship Endowment Fund. “I grew up as one of six kids in a military family. I went to college [at Dartmouth] and law school [at Harvard] with assistance, and I would not be in the position I’m in today without having received financial aid,” Thurmond says. “It’s important to me to pay that back.”
Thurmond hopes other Milken parents will follow his example. “We’ve all had the chance for our kids to benefit from being at Milken,” he says. “At a lot of schools, if you’re a square peg, they try to force you through the round whole. At Milken, they let you be yourself. That’s a gift we can help give to other Jewish students, and I’m proud to be doing my part.”
To learn more about giving programs and Milken endowment funds please contact Hilary Hellman, Director of Development at firstname.lastname@example.org.