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Newly established Sea and Sky Endowed Scholarship to benefit students in the Gupta College of Science at CCU

April 1, 2024
Jessica Headlee earned a bachelor’s degree in marine science from CCU in 2017.Jessica with her parents, Christopher and Kim Headlee.The Headlee family with Jessica's grandfather, George Iverson Jr.

Christopher and Kim Iverson Headlee of Wytheville, Va., have made a six-figure donation to Coastal Carolina University and established the Sea and Sky Endowed Scholarship, which will benefit students in the Gupta College of Science. The donation has been made in memory of their daughter, Jessica Lynne Headlee, who earned a bachelor’s degree in marine science from CCU in 2017, and Kim’s father, George Iverson Jr. The name of the scholarship pays tribute to Jessica, who was an avid conservationist with a keen interest in the oceans, especially the coral reefs, and George, who made vital contributions to early space exploration as a NASA consultant.

“The Sea and Sky Endowed Scholarship is such a heartwarming way for the Headlees to remember both Jessica and Mr. Iverson,” said Diane Sanders, CCU’s vice president for advancement and alumni engagement. “Their generosity is very much appreciated by the University. Establishing an endowed scholarship will positively impact our students for years to come.”

To be eligible for the scholarships, recipients must be full-time students in the Gupta College of Science and have at least a 2.75 GPA.

“It is such an amazing gift from the Headlee family that will support so many students in their scientific studies,” said Chad Leverette, Ph.D., dean of the Gupta College of Science. “What an amazing way to give honor to their beloved family. We are so grateful for their generosity and thank them for helping us support our wonderful students.”

The Headlees said: “It is our hope that grants from the Sea and Sky Endowed Scholarship will help other students in Coastal’s Gupta College of Science to realize their dreams. The thing that impressed us the most about Coastal Carolina, from our first campus visit, was the sense that everyone, students and faculty alike, are treated like family.”

When Jessica was 10, her mother took her on a cruise, where they had the opportunity to spend an entire day with dolphin trainers in Progreso, Mexico. According to Kim, Jessica later said that event inspired her love for marine life, which blossomed into an intense desire to protect the oceans, especially the coral reefs.

Jessica (1995-2021) graduated magna cum laude from CCU in 2017. Kim said that Jessica also loved to help people, including fundraising for local charities, and volunteered for many years at Star Trek conventions in Baltimore, Md. Jessica’s desires fused at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, where she worked as a guest liaison until the COVID-19 pandemic. She contracted cancer during the pandemic and never was able to return to the job she loved.

George Iverson (1929-2017), a graduate of the University of Washington and Caltech, had a long career in aeronautics and space exploration. In the 1950s, he was a member of the committee responsible for developing the engineering standards for the lunar rover. A decade later, George led the team that designed and built the vehicle, known as “The Crawler,” which transported rockets to the launch pad.

Kim said she has fond memories of watching Mercury and early Apollo launches from the rooftop of their apartment building, located a few miles down the coast from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. In later years, George was a highly sought consultant for many airlines worldwide to ensure that their aircraft modifications met Federal Aviation Administration standards; his signature on a blueprint provided direct FAA approval, and he was one of approximately 700 engineers empowered with such authority. George was always delighted to provide financial assistance, especially to his family, all of whom he was very proud.

Kim, a graduate of Colorado Technical University, is a retired computer science engineer and database analyst. She has been a published novelist since 1999 (Dawnflight, Simon & Schuster), with more than 10 books and novellas to her credit, and at least that many in various stages of completion.

Christopher, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who worked primarily as an analyst both for the Air Force and for a federally funded research and development corporation. He teaches math at Marion Senior High School in Marion, Va.