Reaching for the Skies: Helicopter Manufacturer Gives $1 Million

Next time you're stuck in traffic and hoping for guidance from above--in the form of a radio helicopter reporter--you can be grateful to Frank Robinson, '57. Chances are, the helicopter was built by the Robinson Helicopter Co., which makes more civilian helicopters than any other U.S. company. Frank Robinson is the company's founder and president. But when he graduated from high school on Whidbey Island in 1948, going to college "seemed like a daydream."

"My parents didn't have any money, so I knew I had to make my own way. There were no student loans and no scholarships," says Robinson. It took him nine years to work his way through the UW. He washed dishes in a boarding house, drove a cab, sailed the South Pacific in the merchant marine, and took other jobs to finance his degree in mechanical engineering.

Always interested in aviation, Robinson was especially intrigued by helicopters. After graduating from the UW, he spent 16 years working for various helicopter companies. In 1973 he started his own company, which today has 600 employees.

Robinson says he has thought about giving a scholarship to the University of Washington from the time he was a student. His donation of $1 million is the fifth-largest gift for undergraduate scholarships in the University's history. Robinson says he wanted to make it easier for students--especially those from the community where he grew up--to get an education. Income from the Frank "Muxie" Robinson Endowed Scholarship will pay for tuition, based on a student's financial need.

"We're enormously grateful for this gift," says UW President Richard L. McCormick. "Scholarships are a very high priority need for the University of Washington, and it is rare that we receive a gift as generous as Mr. Robinson's."

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