Pursuit of Excellence History

  • Pursuit of Excellence (POE) was founded by Palo Alto couple Jerry and Dick Smallwood in 1985, starting with one $2,000 scholarship to a Sequoia High School graduate heading to California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Over the years, the couple's friends and adult children grew interested in the cause and as a result, the foundation has grown to support over 700 students, providing more than $7 million dollars, mentoring, internships, and educational workshops.

    POE targets high school seniors for whom the funds, ranging from $500 to $7,000 a year, can be a "tipping point" in their ability to attend college. POE is unique in that we support students for as long as they are in college. We pride ourselves on keeping office and administrative expenses low so that the students receive the maximum benefits from donors' gifts. Over the years, more than 98 percent of the funds donated to POE have been awarded directly to the students.

    POE supports students from 14 high schools on the San Francisco Peninsula from Mountain View to Belmont. In 2008 POE opened a chapter in the Washington DC area and in 2015 another chapter was opened in the San Francisco South Bay, serving San Jose and Los Gatos areas.  POE continues to look for ways to help low-income, hard-working students fulfill their dreams of attending college and becoming successful independent adults.

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