Playing a Special Part

UND volleyball alum uses her passion for philanthropy to encourage others to give back. 

Jill (Keena) Cholewa, ’77, ’79, came to UND with no scholarship assistance and recalls holding down a job while playing sports and going to school full time. Today, the UND Volleyball letter winner and her husband, Steve, support scholarships to ease students’ financial stress.

“Everyone has a story and every student has a different reason for needing a scholarship or financial aid. Through philanthropic giving, we wanted to create an opportunity to play a special part in someone else's story.”

The retired California business owners support programs and scholarships within multiple UND departments, including the College of Education & Human Development, UND Athletics, and the Nistler College of Business and Public Administration. During visits back to UND, the Cholewas have met many of the students they support.

“The biggest surprise when I meet each of the recipients is how truly humble they all are," said Jill. "They are very grateful for the opportunity to receive the scholarship. They are goal orientated and have that superb drive and a serious work ethic!”

Jill Cholewa with scholarship recipient

Jill met one of the Cholewa's scholarship recipients, Tyler Head, '20, at the 2019 Sioux Award Banquet. 

Recognized for investing beyond finances, the 2015 Sioux Award Recipient and Women for Philanthropy speaker says her motivation for giving is to inspire others to do the same.

"We hope the people who receive our scholarships will in turn assist others in whatever manner they are able, whether through tutoring and mentoring, community service or even helping to fund additional scholarships," said Jill.


Meetings like these can help students form a deeper appreciation of their donor’s generosity while giving donors a closeup view of their investment’s impact. While in-person meetings this year will look different due to COVID-19, we plan to connect students to their supporters in other ways.

Click below to learn how you can join in and start helping students.