[Noozhawk’s note: This is the third in series of stories about the history of the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The foundation inspires, encourages and supports Santa Barbara County students in their pursuit of college, graduate and vocational school through financial aid advising and scholarships. Since 1962, the Scholarship Foundation has awarded more than $65 million in scholarships. Click here for the first article, click here for the second and click here for the third.]
On this day 50 years ago, a group that would later be known as the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara met for the first time. On that very same day 50 years ago, a baby girl was born in a hospital in Spokane, Wash.: Colette Hadley, who would grow up to be executive director of the Scholarship Foundation.
“It’s a fun coincidence,” Hadley said about sharing her 50th birthday with the organization for which she has worked for 20 years. “It’s like having a twin –- we’ve grown up together.”
Hadley was born on May 29, 1962, the fifth of seven children in her family. Her father worked in sales, so her family moved often. She spent her high school years in Minnesota, moved with her family to California, and attended UC Irvine.
A few years after graduating from college, Hadley went back to the Irvine campus to work as the marketing manager at the student center, where she trained students and promoted events. During that job, she realized her true passion was helping students.
“Students would come and talk to me all the time, asking me for advice,” Hadley said. “I realized that was the part of my job I liked the most, but it wasn’t even an official part of my job.”
In the fall of 1992, she decided to look for a new position, one in which she could help students in a more direct way. While visiting a friend in Santa Barbara, she happened to see a tiny newspaper ad for a job at the Scholarship Foundation, so she applied. Even though the interview took place 20 years ago, former board president Joanne Rapp remembers it well.
“I could see right away her ability to relate to kids,” Rapp recalled. “I could see she really cared.”
Originally, Hadley was hired to help organize the Concours d’’Elegance, a classic car show and fundraiser for the foundation that attracted thousands of people each year and was very time consuming to plan. Although Hadley was an excellent event organizer, what she really wanted to do was work with students. After her first six months on the job, she convinced the board to let her do two jobs: organize the car show and work as the student aid director.
“She responded to the cause in a more emotional way than anyone else — she felt so strongly that every student be treated fairly,” said Hugh Vos, a former foundation board president, who joked that every time he went to the office to talk to Hadley about the car show, she had her nose in the student files instead.
After the foundation stopped organizing the car show, Hadley solely took on the role of director of student aid, a position she held for 10 years before becoming associate executive director. During these years, she worked closely with Billie Maunz, the foundation’s executive director at the time who served as a mentor to Hadley.
“Colette is one of the brightest people I have ever met,” said Maunz. “We were true partners — it was unique. We could always be very frank with each other.”
Maunz taught Hadley important skills, such as fundraising and financial savvy, and took her along to meetings with potential donors.
“I had the very best model in Billie,” Hadley said.
But Hadley also carved out her own niche, starting an effort to win national recognition for the foundation among its peers. In 1995, she went to Cleveland to attend a conference of the National College Access Network, a new organization of other scholarship foundations across the country. Much to her surprise, she discovered that Santa Barbara’s Scholarship Foundation was the oldest in the country, and tied with the well-respected Cleveland organization for the largest amount of awards. Hadley would go on to become a board member of NCAN; she helped build it into a strong and powerful organization with a national office in Washington, D.C., and a paid director and staff of six. More than 1,000 staff members from scholarship foundations nationwide now participate at the annual conference, one of which was held in Santa Barbara in 1996.
Foundation board members say Hadley’s involvement on a national level is crucial to the foundation’s success here in Santa Barbara.
“She’s very up-to-date on what is happening in the scholarship world,” Rapp said. “Our group really needs that information.”
Of course, Hadley’s national prominence has led to other job offers that would have taken her away from Santa Barbara. Luckily, the timing worked out well, because just as Hadley was ready for a new challenge, Maunz decided to retire.
“She could have been hired away many, many times. She’s well-known in the scholarship world,” said Ken Saxon, a former board president, who added that when Maunz was ready to retire, the board had to consider whether to conduct a job search for a new executive director, ultimately deciding not to.
“It just seemed really clear that we already had the right person. We could have searched all day long and not found someone as talented as Colette.”
Hadley assumed the position of executive director of the foundation on Jan. 1, 2007. Even though Maunz had been executive director for 16 years, board members say the transition went very smoothly. For her part, Hadley says that while she did have opportunities to go elsewhere, the people she works with keep her here.
“I’m a very loyal person,” she said. “The relationships I’ve developed here are very dear to me.”
More important, Hadley thinks she might just have her dream job.
“I love this mission,” she exclaimed. “It is very clear and tangible, It is very effective, very results-driven. You don’t have to wait two decades to see results.”
What is the only bad part about her job? Denying motivated and qualified students the aid they need to attend college. Despite giving out more than 2,400 scholarships worth more than $7 million this year, each year on average the foundation must turn away about 500 students because of lack of funds.
“Every night I think about the students we didn’t give awards to,” Hadley said. “That’s the part that bothers me the most, and makes me teary. But it’s also motivating. It makes me want to raise more money for next year and to work harder.”