Pay It Forward—The Fitzgeralds' Story
A.G. Freed and N.B. Hardeman lived out the idea of "paying it forward." One example occurred in 1907, when construction of the Old Main Administration Building was in danger of stalling. Freed and Hardeman pledged their own money and credit to complete construction and guarantee the mortgage.
Throughout FHU's 150-year history, donors consistently have played an important role in the lives of students. Freed-Hardeman would not have survived the early 1900s without the generosity of those who believed in the quality of instruction at the school in Henderson, Tennessee. Even today, there are those whose enrollment at Freed-Hardeman is possible only because of the dedicated donors who provide scholarships.
FHU is honored to highlight a family who continues to impact students through their generosity—the Fitzgerald family.
Jason and Tracy Fitzgerald co-own and operate Arrowhead Campers in Mayfield, Kentucky, with Jason's sister, Teresa Herndon, and her husband, Andrew. Murrell and Carolyn Fitzgerald, Jason's parents, opened the business in 1972. From an early age, Jason witnessed his parents' examples of supporting worthy causes, as they donated to Freed-Hardeman, and Carolyn served as an associate during the 1970s and 1980s. After Carolyn passed away in November 2006, Murrell continued to support the work of Christian education at Freed-Hardeman.
Jason sums up what made Murrell so generous in his giving, as he said, "He grew up hard. He knew what it was like to grow up with nothing. My parents would rather give and have nothing." When Murrell Fitzgerald passed away, he expected that his children would continue giving because he had taught them responsible stewardship. Murrell believed everything he had belonged to God and that he was only a steward of those blessings.
"Both of our children were blessed with nearly free tuition to their colleges, and we feel obliged to give back to FHU and let other children have a chance to receive a great Christian education," Jason said. While neither of Jason and Tracy's children attended Freed-Hardeman, they are firm advocates for FHU. Collin Fitzgerald, their son, received his B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Kentucky in 2015. He has since encouraged the youth at Northside Church of Christ—where he and his family attend worship—to further their education at Freed-Hardeman or other Christian universities due to the great Christian environment. Jason and Tracy's daughter, Torie Fitzgerald, received a B.B.A. in management with an emphasis in entrepreneurship from Harding University.
The Fitzgeralds have a close tie to FHU through their daughter-in-law, Audreanna West Fitzgerald. Audreanna graduated from Freed-Hardeman in 2019 with a bachelor's degree in child and family services. Jason and Tracy were impressed with Audreanna and the education she received at FHU.
Jason and Tracy have established the Jason and Tracy Fitzgerald Endowed Scholarship at Freed-Hardeman, focused on helping students who are members of the Churches of Christ in Graves County, Kentucky. Their goal is to make it possible for more students to receive a Freed-Hardeman education.
The Fitzgeralds' initial goal is to get the scholarship's endowment level to $100,000, although Jason said he has no plans of stopping at a certain number. They want to benefit as many students as possible. "Once we reach $100,000, we'll see where we can go from there," he says.
Their generosity extends beyond the scholarship. Jason and Tracy often hire teens from the Northside Church of Christ who need a job during the summer. Even though they are giving the youth a job, they still excuse them from work in order to go on various youth trips, engage in church activities or attend church camps. The Fitzgeralds have spent their lives being stewards to the Lord and truly expressing a Christ-like mindset in paying it forward to help others.
"Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…" (Matthew 6:20)