This scholarship is in honor of Jesse, Velena, Jordan, and Trent McRae. They all attended a university where a lion or tiger was the mascot. As a result, the running family joke was that they were a family of "Big Cats".
Jesse and Velena met while attending the University of Arkansas - Pine Bluff, where the mascot is the Golden Lion. Jordan attended Loyola Marymount, where Iggy the Lion, is the mascot. Trent attended University of Missouri at Columbia (Mizzou), where Truman the Tiger is the mascot. The McRae's are indeed a family of "Big Cats".
Jesse was the "quintessential" businessman. He lived and breathed business every day and enjoyed a 20-year career in the financial services industry. A former FINRA Investment Advisory Representative, Registered Representative, General Securities Principal and Licensed Equity Trader, Jesse’s sell-side experience denoted a rigorous capital markets concentration. His buy-side experience included marketing domestic all-cap equity portfolios as well as private equity mezzanine funds involving senior subordinated debt, recapitalizations and divestitures within the oil services, specialty retail and hospitality industries. Jesse’s FINRA Credentials included: Series 7, Series 24, Series 55, Series 63, and Series 65. He was the Founding Principal at Zephyr Financial Services before his unexpected passing in 2020.
Velena decided to earn a Business Analytics Certification 30 years after earning her MBA. Needless to say, things were very different than what she remembered when she was in college. She found out real quick it's not that easy going back to school and integrating assignments, projects, and tests into an already full schedule. Not to mention the cost of school and not fitting into any scholarship category, which means she had to pay for everything herself. This was the catalyst for Velena to give to others who are going back to school after a prolong absence. Velena feels the scholarship is a way to say,
"Hey, I see you. I'm rooting for you. You've got this!"
Vera Bailey was a strong believer in education and encouraged her children and grandchildren to earn as many certifications/degrees as they could. Vera's six children and eighteen grandchildren all went to college and she attended all of her grandchildren's high school graduations and only missed one college graduation. The reason she missed the one graduation is because two were graduating on the same day. Of the twenty-four, ten of them attended the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB). The legacy continued after her passing with two great-grandchildren attending and graduating from UAPB.