- The Washington Times - Monday, August 23, 2004

PHOENIX.

When he started sending “our” children to college, retired Social Security Administration executive Steve Bauer didn’t anticipate that it might be a lifetime project.

But Mr. Bauer and a number of his federal employee friends have more than 110 graduates under their belt and about 40 now in school, and they don’t expect their last “child” to graduate until about 2023.

The students, in whom we all have a special stake, are survivors of civilian federal workers killed in terrorist attacks, including the September 11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, the bombing nine years ago at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and attacks in Africa and Asia.

Feds and corporations, working through the Federal Employees Education Assistance (FEEA) Fund, have committed to providing these hundreds of survivors a college education — with room, board and tuition paid in full — to the school of their choice.

Most of the Oklahoma City children chose to go to school close to home, either in Oklahoma or Texas. But the children of Pentagon victims who have entered the program have gone to schools from Nova Southeastern University to Harvard to Stanford and even Oxford.

“If they can get in and maintain their grades, they go where they want to,” Mr. Bauer says.

Millions of dollars have been raised, in combined federal campaign pledges, from corporate sponsors such as Blue Cross, Geico and Lockheed Martin, and that money has been invested to ensure it will grow and be available when the students need it.

Mr. Bauer is not above chasing down feds and passing the hat, as he did last week at the Federal Dispute Resolution conference here in Phoenix. Two of the founding fathers of FEEA, Washington lawyer G. Jerry Shaw and American University professor Robert Tobias, were participants in this desert meeting, designed to teach feds how to prevent in-house personnel, equal opportunity and labor disputes from becoming full-blown, bitter and costly federal cases.

When FEEA was set up, over a luncheon in Washington, Mr. Shaw and Mr. Tobias, who was president of the National Treasury Employees Union, had no idea it would take on as many projects as it has. The projects range from hurricane relief for feds, to scholarships and the special funds for the survivors of terrorist attacks.

Mr. Bauer says a high percentage of the 200 children — including one who had not been born when his father was killed — have chosen to study “the helping professions,” such as teaching, therapy, counseling or other service occupations.

“I don’t know whether it’s because of their personal experience, the death of a parent, or because they are the children of public servants, but that’s how it has worked out,” Mr. Bauer said.

Some of the students have had emotional problems and dropped out of school, only to come back.

“But these are very mature people for the most part,” Mr. Bauer said. “They’ve had their bad days. Losing a boyfriend or not making the varsity isn’t a major tragedy for them.”

Like the program itself, Mr. Bauer says, he is in it for the long haul. He says it’s a tribute to federal and postal workers everywhere. The message, he said, is “We don’t forget.”

Mike Causey, senior editor at FederalNewsRadio.com, can be reached at 202/895-5132 or mcausey@federalnewsradio.com

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