Marine vets get a surprise: full rides at ASU Law

Two first-year law students are the initial beneficiaries of a new scholarship program for veterans at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.

The program had not yet been announced when former Marines Conner Pursell (pictured right) and Christopher Senn first applied to join this fall's incoming class at ASU Law. When notified that they had received full-ride scholarships, they both were taken aback.

"I was surprised and amazed," Pursell said. "But very, very happy."

"Oh my goodness," said Senn, recalling the moment he first found out. "It was quite the surprise, to say the least."

The program offers up to four full-ride scholarships through the duration of law school. Two of the scholarships are reserved for individuals who have served in the Marine Corps, and two are reserved for veterans of the Special Forces, such as Army Rangers or Green Berets, Navy SEALs or Marine MARSOC or RECON.

Senn has been awarded the Richard Romley Scholarship. Romley, who served as the Maricopa County attorney from 1989 to 2004, is a former Marine and decorated Vietnam veteran who received several commendations for his service, including the Purple Heart. He is a graduate of both ASU and ASU Law.

Pursell has been awarded the R.J. Mitchell Scholarship. Mitchell, an ASU graduate, is a Marine veteran who completed two combat tours in Iraq. He was awarded the Navy Cross for a distinguished act of combat valor in which he was wounded while saving the lives of several trapped Marines.

How it all started 
In a video shown last October during the annual ASU Law Scholarship Luncheon, a student was discussing his volunteer work at the Arizona Legal Center. The Marines Corps logo on his shirt caught the eye of an audience member, Deborah Carstens, whose late husband, Bill, was a lawyer who had served in the Marines.

Curious to know more, Carstens approached ASU Law administrators. She learned that veterans were a priority for the law school, but that tuition was a barrier for some. The GI Bill helps veterans and active-duty military personnel pay for college, but there are caps on the benefits, which are typically used for an undergraduate degree. To pursue a law degree, most would need to pay out of pocket or receive scholarships.

So Carstens, who said she was inspired by Arizona State University's commitment to veterans, made the decision to fund a scholarship program for Marines and veterans of the Special Forces.

"We share Deb's passion for supporting those who have so graciously served our country, and we thank her for this special and generous donation," said ASU Law Dean Douglas Sylvester. "We are honored to welcome these students and help prepare them for success in the next chapter of their lives."