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Charlie Thomas, Owner of Kent’s Iconic Ray’s Place, Pays It Forward

Charlie Thomas, owner of Ray's Place (left), with Ray’s Place Entrepreneurship Scholarship recipient, Nick Biro.

Charlie Thomas’ (’74 Marketing) mother graduated from high school and his dad finished eighth grade, so when Charlie was the second in his family to graduate from college (his older brother was the first), it was a personal accomplishment for him.

“When I received my degree from Kent State University, I was so proud of myself,” said Charlie, owner of Kent’s iconic Ray’s Place. “In our family, you were not encouraged or expected to continue your education past high school, and I had accomplished my goal through my own hard work, drive and determination.”

“My college education was mostly self-financed,” Charlie continued. “I was able to pay for my time at Kent State with the help of the GI bill and two part-time jobs while in school, as well as full-time summer employment.”

But, Charlie did have some help along the way.

“My sophomore year I was awarded a $300 scholarship from an organization in my home town,” he said. “I still remember how excited I was to receive that money to further my education.”

It was in part because of receiving that scholarship, and the feeling it gave him, that Charlie established the
Ray’s Place Entrepreneurship Scholarship.

“I wanted to establish a scholarship fund to help students in need, who have worked hard in school as well as on the job to put themselves through school,” Charlie said. “When I learned of the
Kent State University Center for Entrepreneurship & Business Innovation, I thought, ‘This is what it’s all about – here is where I can help.’”

“I have a special place in my heart for entrepreneurship, since I live it every day.” Charlie said. “I believe that others should be helped to visualize and reach their own goals, too.”

Charlie hopes to increase the scholarship to the point where several students can benefit from it every year. One of the ways the scholarship’s funds are increased is through the sale of the book,
Meet Me at Ray’s Place. The book, available from The Kent State University Press and authored by Kent State Professor, Dr. Patrick J. O’Connor, is a celebration of more than seventy-five successful years (and counting) of Ray’s Place. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book goes to support the Ray's Place Entrepreneurial Scholarship.

Recently, Ray’s Place Entrepreneurship Scholarship recipient, Nick Biro, had the opportunity to meet with Charlie over lunch.

“After meeting Mr. Thomas, I can tell he really wants to help as many students as he can,” Nick said. “He seemed very interested not only in what I want to do professionally, but also in my experiences here at Kent State. He was engaged and I could tell he not only wanted to help me financially, but also wanted to see me achieve my future aspirations and succeed in life here on campus.”

Nick was a great choice for receiving this scholarship; you could say he is following in Charlie’s footsteps.

Nick, an Entrepreneurship major, will graduate in December 2014. He will be the first in his family to graduate from college and is paying his own way as well. He was originally an aviation major, but has always wanted to own his own business. One day, he read about the Ray’s Place Entrepreneurship scholarship, and it helped him make the decision.

“One of the reasons I switched to entrepreneurship was due to Mr. Thomas’ scholarship,” Nick said.

Nick would like to ultimately combine his degree with his passion for aviation, and own an aircraft operations business.

Nick plans to follow in Charlie’s footsteps in another way as well.

“Receiving this scholarship makes me feel accountable,” Nick said. “I’m really grateful, and I now want to someday establish my own scholarship.”

It is very easy to make a gift to the Rays Place Entrepreneurship Scholarship Fund, or other funds. To find out more, visit
www.GiveToKent.org