An affordable education at Central Michigan University positioned 1983 alum Scott Pranger for business success. Now, he's ensuring that others will follow in his footsteps.
With a pledge of $2 million during CMU's Fire Up for Excellence Capital Campaign to establish the Scott L. Pranger CMU Business Scholarship, the
College of Business Administration's 2015 Distinguished Alumni award winner is putting an education within reach of new CMU Chippewas.
First in his family
When Pranger first considered college, he knew affordability was going to be key.
"My family did not have any extra money or the ability to assist me financially with college," he said. Raised in the small town of Shelby, Michigan, by working-class parents, he wanted to become the first person in his family to attain a four-year degree.
CMU offered one of the most affordable rates, and its small-town setting appealed to him. After studying engineering for two years, he changed his major to finance with a minor in accounting and took classes in management, marketing and finance that would be central to his career.
"There is a passion at CMU that I don't see at other universities." – Scott Pranger
Pranger became the first sales engineer and eventually vice president of global sales at Kurdziel Industries, growing the company's revenue from $6 million to nearly $100 million in 10 years. He founded his first company,
EQI Ltd., a global manufacturing and logistics company, in 2004.
"My education at CMU provided the foundation that enabled me to start my own business after a 20-year career in industrial manufacturing," he said
Over the span of his career, he partnered with several global leaders in manufacturing like
Hyster-Yale Materials Handling,
Haas Automation and
John Deere, where EQI provided in excess of 100,000 tons of iron, steel and aluminum castings annually to customer locations all around the world. EQI sales grew to approximately $90 million in five years. Pranger sold the company in 2012 to devote more time to his family.
Unprepared for the unexpected
"Life can throw each of us curve balls that none of us will have prepared for," Pranger said.
In 2000, he was diagnosed with severe idiopathic peripheral neuropathy, which causes immense, continual nerve pain for which there is no cure. Six months later his wife, Cathleen, was diagnosed with ALS, which she battled for nearly 15 years. Shortly after her death in 2015, Pranger's son, Sam, experienced a severe cardiac event during training at the United States Military Academy at West Point, causing him to lose his appointment to the school for medical reasons.
"Bad things can happen when we least expect them, but good things also can happen," he said.
His wife's diagnosis spurred Pranger to start EQI Ltd.
"It's amazing what you are capable of when failure is not an option. The cost of my wife's care was in excess of $2 million over her life with ALS, which are costs the insurance company doesn't cover," he said. "My family was blessed to find numerous women who were able to provide Cathleen care 24/7."
When he sold the company, he utilized 10 percent of the proceeds to found the Pranger Family Foundation, which in turn has assisted thousands of people worldwide.
Today, Sam is healthy and attending CMU as a freshman.
"Place your trust in God to help you through life's troubling times and work hard toward living your dream," Pranger said. "Graduates need to understand that they are not entitled to anything. Be prepared to work hard if you want to get ahead."
Paying it forward
Giving back to God and community have always been important to Pranger, and he focused his philanthropy in three key areas: faith, education and community. He is a 20-year board member of
Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes and supports numerous Christian organizations around the world. In honor of his late wife, he also has been a strong supporter of the
At CMU, Pranger wants to provide future students the same exceptional college experience he enjoyed. His scholarship will provide four renewable scholarships to incoming students interested in a business degree.
"I wanted to pay it forward for students who are interested in business and would otherwise not be able to attend CMU," he said.
He hopes the full-ride scholarships will prevent students from graduating with a mountain of debt, and that they will choose to pay it forward for someone else in turn.
A long relationship with CMU
The scholarship gift is not Pranger's first to CMU. In 2012, his gift of $250,000 established the
College of Business Administration's Hall of Fame, located in the Pranger Recognition Hallway in Grawn Hall.
"I value the friendships and relationships that I cultivated at CMU. Those are the people I'm closest with today, and I've had the ability to lean on them as most are very successful business professionals," he said.
He's been a visible part of the campus for many years, often coming to campus to speak to students at the business school or coming to CMU football and basketball games with Sam.
"There is a passion at CMU that I don't see at other universities," he said. "From faculty and advisors, employees and students, people at CMU really care and strive to make a difference."