ASHLAND, Ohio – Not all Santas wear red suits and fly through the sky in a reindeer-pulled sleigh.
Ashland University alumna Deborah Leibert Karl drove up from Columbus on the final day of fall semester bearing gifts, one for each of the University’s 186 student veterans.
It was the second year that Liebert Karl, who also is an AU trustee, has provided student veterans gift cards – this year’s were $200 cards for Target – to help them in the holiday season.
Last year, Liebert Karl said she got the gift card idea after learning that student veterans do not receive military pay during times when they’re not on campus. Christmas break is one of those times, so at the last minute, she headed off to Giant Eagle near her Columbus-area home and purchased one for each of the nearly 200 student veterans.
This year, Liebert Karl said she had a little more time to plan. She not only bought each student veteran a gift card, she came to Ashland to deliver them in person at an afternoon reception at the Uniontown Brewing Co. downtown. “It is,” she said, “a way to help them and to show my appreciation for what they’ve done for our country.”
Liebert Karl’s heart for veterans stems from her father, Jack W. Liebert, a U.S. Navy veteran who served in both World War II and the Korean War. His name will go on AU’s Military Veterans Resource Center, for which Liebert Karl made a $1 million gift to the University.
Last year, she said, she got cards and notes from appreciative student veterans, one of which said, “This is the difference between paying my electric bill and buying my child a Christmas present.”
Being a student and a veteran sets these 186 people apart from the rest of the student population. “What you’ve experienced is completely different than what other 18 year olds have experienced.”
That is true, said student veteran Andrea Ash, who served six years of active duty with the U.S. Navy and now is in the reserves while she studies exercise science at AU. Eventually, she said, she wants to get a doctorate in occupational therapy. A married mother of two, Ash said the social aspect of college is challenging, but she finds AU Veteran Services helps student veterans establish their own community, not unlike the way her unit became like family to her.
Ash, who hadn’t yet opened her card, said she had no doubt she’d appreciate its contents. Liebert Karl, she said, “is always very generous.”
Her generosity comes from the heart. Over the years, said Vice President of Institutional Advancement Margaret Pomfret, Liebert Karl has often said that student veterans “served our country and they deserve our very best.”