Rock Solid Support for Students

Mike and Mary Ann Kozimko

Mike Kozimko is grateful for the chance Iowa State took on him years ago. Now, he and his wife, Mary Ann, are paying it forward and helping students in need.

The bank teller handed 22-year-old Mike Kozimko $4,000 in cash. Kozimko had earned it frying hamburgers and working for a casino in Reno, Nevada. It was 1972.

He looked at the stack of bills. “Datsun 240Z or grad degree?” he asked himself.

He’d always wanted a Datsun 240Z car. But he knew his life was going nowhere. So he packed his bags and headed to Ames, where the car he actually ended up with was a beat-up Toyota with tie rods that were shot and an engine that wouldn’t start unless you parked it on a hill and popped the clutch.

Kozimko had applied to the Iowa State geology department sight unseen, a favor the school returned when it accepted him. His undergraduate grades were “not great,” and his GRE scores were middling. He wasn’t, he admits, the best prospect. But he knew how to work hard, which put him in good standing with his advisor, Carl Vondra, now Distinguished Professor Emeritus of geology.

“Dr. Vondra was tough but fair,” Kozimko said. “He’s directly responsible for my career.” He was also responsible for the old Toyota. It’s what Mike had to drive for his job at the department's rustic field camp in Shell, Wyoming. Despite the hard work, Kozimko loved most of it. They did, after all, have to dig holes for their own latrines.

“It’s real nice there now,” Kozimko said, after a successful 40-year career in the oil industry. “They have real bathrooms and AC.”

They are also able to welcome students who might otherwise be unable to attend, thanks to the Kozimko Geology Field Camp Scholarship established by Kozimko and his wife, Mary Ann, through cash gifts. The couple recently made an estate gift through a life insurance policy, which will ultimately endow the scholarship and make it available to future generations of students.

Kozimko – whose passion for geology can still be seen in his half-ton rock collection that includes fossilized dinosaur feces – said he has a soft spot in his heart for those students.

“I wouldn’t have made it through grad school without significant assistance. That $4,000 was gone in one year. Thanks to the career I got out of it, we have the resources to help.”

Mary Ann agreed. “We don’t have mink stoles or new cars, but we’re comfortable. Money’s tight for a lot of people. Students need the help.”

The coronavirus pandemic canceled last summer’s camp, but the Kozimkos continued to help Iowa State students by reallocating their contribution to the Cyclone Strong Fund, which serves students who have experienced financial difficulty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Iowa State took a chance on me by accepting me and giving me assistance,” Kozimko said. “Now we can give back by helping students who need it.”

Like the Kozimkos, you can help Iowa State students in need today and in the future. Contact the office of gift planning at giftplanning@foundation.iastate.edu or 800.621.8515 to discover ways you can make an impact.