The Kelly/Strul Emerging Scholars Program at FAU Receives $6.4 Million Donation from Anonymous Philanthropist

Program provides comprehensive financial aid packages to low-income, first-generation FAU students

Florida Atlantic University’s (FAU) Kelly/Strul Emerging Scholars Program recently received a multi-million dollar donation from an anonymous philanthropist. The $6.4 million generous donation was announced by program co-founder Aubrey Strul during a recent National First-Generation College Student celebration at FAU. The Kelly/Strul Emerging Scholars Program offers academically talented, first-generation, low-income high school seniors the opportunity to attend FAU and graduate, debt-free. Students receive four-year financial aid packages for tuition, on-campus housing, books, a meal plan and additional resources needed to complete their college degree.

Through the Let’s Have a Smile Scholarship Fund, the anonymous donor recently committed $6.4 million to the Kelly/Strul Program, doubling an initial $5 million investment in 2019 with a $5 million legacy gift for a total of $10 million to this program. The donor also expanded his annual commitment and will now sponsor 22 Kelly/Strul scholars for four years, totaling $1.4 million in additional annual support.

“I strongly believe these first-generation students are the future of this great country. The Kelly/Strul Emerging Scholars Program is developing leaders who not only achieve success but also give back to FAU, their community, and future FAU students. This is a game changer for our society as it levels the playing field for all scholars. I am proud to support this organization,” said the donor.

Developed by Boca Raton philanthropists Aubrey and Sally Strul in partnership with FAU President John Kelly and First Lady Carolyn Kelly, The Kelly/Strul Emerging Scholars Program aims to lessen the crippling burden of school debt and offer guidance to students who otherwise would navigate college life alone. Each scholar follows “The Path,” a 17-step program which includes wraparound services supporting successful collegiate careers and post-graduate lives, such as career planning, mentoring, and financial literacy, among others.

“College can be challenging for first-generation students, especially if their families lack the resources to help support their educational journey,” said FAU President John Kelly. “By removing financial barriers and providing additional support services, the Kelly/Strul Emerging Scholars Program is helping these remarkable and resilient students overcome the odds and obtain their degrees.”

A former first-generation student, Strul provided the initial $1 million investment to launch the program. He and Sally remain dedicated to working with the University to ensure the scholarship’s continued success and steady growth. Their 10-year goal is to admit 80 new scholars to the program each year, continuously providing a four-year, debt-free education for 320 FAU first-generation students.

“Major donors are the lifeline of the Kelly/Strul Program, and we are thrilled and encouraged by this contribution,” Strul said. “Yet, we have a long way to go to reach all our objectives.” Strul said the anonymous donation will help so many deserving students achieve their dreams. “These students have the talent, decency, intelligence and guts to succeed. They just need a chance,” he added.

Since 2017, the program has successfully graduated 13 scholars and has grown to include 69 students.

The Kelly/Strul Emerging Scholars Program is now accepting applications for the freshman class of 2022-23. All applications must be received by Tuesday, February 15, 2022. To learn more about the program or to view application requirements, visit

About the Kelly/Strul Emerging Scholars Program
The Kelly/Strul Emerging Scholars Program at Florida Atlantic University provides Florida’s select academically talented, first-generation, low-income students the financial and academic support needed to graduate, debt-free. The program prepares students for a successful college career and meaningful post-graduate life through its turnkey, 17-point program including mentorship, financial literacy workshops, internships, and much more.