Local philanthropist gives a boost to student veterans in southern California

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Artist and MFA candidate Brian Bankston served in the Air Force
Artist and MFA candidate Brian Bankston served in the Air Force. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Some people say, “thank you for your service,” to military veterans. Some people deride them. Others say nothing. One local philanthropist has taken another course of action: He’s helping them to get a private education.

California leads the nation in number of veterans, with between 25,000 and 30,000 returning home to the state each year.  In total, 2 million veterans live in the state.

The GI bill pays for the entire cost of a public education for veterans who choose to enroll. But some feel that smaller schools can be more appropriate and welcoming for certain vets.

The Beverly Hills-based Ahmanson Foundation recently awarded over a million dollars to 25 area private schools so they could attract and retain veterans. More on the initiative here.

Nick Edinger says he always knew he wanted to be an artist. A former combat illustrator for the Marines, he stands in front of his work at Otis, where he now studies. Photos by Lisa Napoli.

Bryan Bankston is one of those students able to attend Otis College of Art and Design, where he’s working toward his MFA in photography. Former Marine combat illustrator Nick Edinger is another. Both are grateful that they can earn their degrees without incurring mounds of debt.

I met with them and other student vets recently, and talked with philanthropist Bill Ahmanson about his motivation for the grant. Here’s the story: