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New Scholarship Honors Avinger '60 by Encouraging Young Entrepreneurs

by Davidson College
Robert Avinger Jr and students
Robert Avinger (r) with scholarship recipients Tori Mayernick and Jared Blakney.

Davidson prepares students for lives of leadership and service-and some students aren't even waiting until graduation to demonstrate what they've learned. Two students already showing leadership are Jared Blakney '14 and Tori Mayernick '14, the inaugural recipients of the Robert L. Avinger Jr. Entrepreneurial Scholarship.

The scholarship was created by Davidson alumni who shared an interest in encouraging business-minded students to pursue their dreams. It was created as the Davidson Entrepreneurial Scholarship. However, contributors later insisted it be renamed in honor of Robert L. Avinger '60, their friend, mentor, and -- in some cases -- former Davidson professor of economics. The scholarship is intended for students who demonstrate entrepreneurial spirit and creativity that shows promise of future success in business or civic engagement.

Blakney and his brother founded and run Generations Tee Shirt Co., a socially conscious clothing company. Mayernick has served as president and marketing manager for Hives for Lives, which directs profits from honey sales towards cancer research.

"The biggest motivator was the encouragement from our parents to pursue our vision," said Blakney, a rising junior from Cary, N.C. Blakney and his brother created Generations in the summer of 2008 while in high school, and officially became a company with a website last year. The brothers donate a portion of the proceeds from t-shirts they design and sell to Charity: water, a non-profit organization providing sources of clean drinking water to communities throughout the world.

Blakney said, "We want to bring inspiration to a generation of individuals that's finding greatness in its passions and changing the world."

Mayernick, a political science major from Gladwin, Penn., began working with Hives for Lives as a "helper bee," assisting best friends who founded the company in honor of their great-grandfather who died of cancer in 2011.

"Hives for Lives started out as a small, high-school club that sold honey products at local fairs and markets," explained Mayernick. "Then we were recognized by Whole Foods Market at a "Pow-wow" to promote small businesses. Whole Foods started selling our honey and we made a lot of sales."

Mayernick became vice president of marketing, and as demand sky-rocketed, she negotiated a deal that took their product to nine out of the 11 regions of Whole Foods stores nationwide. They now sell honey in more than 30 states and have donated more than $170,000 to cancer research.

The Avinger Scholarship was originally intended for one student, but the applicant pool was so strong the selection committee decided on both Blakney and Mayernick. The students will receive funding during their junior and senior years to apply towards their entrepreneurial interests, or towards their Davidson educations. The scholarship also offers them support and advice for their projects and careers from a professional entrepreneurial advisory committee.

Mayernick plans to use part of her Avinger scholarship to start a Hives For Lives club on campus and sell products in Davidson. Blakney would like to continue Generations or start another venture, and pursue a career in marketing and branding. Both students intend to pursue business studies after Davidson.