By Jean Peat
Earning a college degree wasn’t easy for Brent Hodges. Between attending classes full-time and frequently working the graveyard shift six nights a week for a wholesale grocery company, the stress was often overwhelming for him.
“Those were tough times,” Brent says, who graduated from UMKC in 1970 with a degree in economics. “The financial help I received as a recipient of the Victor Wilson Scholarship was the difference-maker toward my success as a student. I couldn’t have afforded it otherwise.”
That critical support is what motivated Brent to create the Hodges Scholarship Fund for Economics to help students with financial need. The scholarship will be open to any junior majoring in economics with at least a 2.8 grade point average.
“I had help so I want to do something for other people,” he says. “A college degree is the ticket to a good job — it opened doors for me into the business world. I believe a good public education should be a right for everyone.”
Brent remembers many of his professors, but especially John Hodges and Joe Brown because they had the same names as both his grandfathers, as well as renowned mathematics professor, Norman Royall, after whom UMKC’s Royall Hall is named.
Shortly after graduating, Brent joined the Army Reserve – National Guard and served for six years. He earned the Insurance Institute of America’s Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter designation, a five-year program that only two-percent of insurance employees in the property casualty industry hold.
“Turns out my degree in economics was a good foundation,” Brent says.
Brent spent 47 years in the insurance industry, spending his last 28 years as an insurance underwriter for Preferred Physicians Medical Risk Retention Group and retiring as vice president last year. While teaching insurance classes to adults in the evenings at Rockhurst University, he met his wife Bonnie, who was one of his students. She also enjoyed a career as a vice president in the insurance field. Together, they have traveled to 38 countries and are planning a cruise to Iceland and Norway later this year.
In addition to the Hodges Scholarship, Brent and Bonnie have decided to leave a generous planned gift to UMKC Foundation in hopes of creating an endowed professorship or chair in economics. Their gift will be the largest contribution to date to the College of Arts and Sciences’ Economics Department.
“I want to leave a legacy, and now’s the time while I am still alive,” Brent says. “I think people who have the means should give back.”