New Scholarship Offers a Soft Landing for First Generation Students

Stephanie Wolf Hughes, Geoff Hughes' mother, with her flight instructor.

Aug. 24, 2020

The vintage photograph of Stephanie Wolf Hughes shows a confident, beaming young woman in well-worn overalls on an airfield in Arizona. The year is around 1960.

What you don’t see is that she just recently, or might be about to, parachute out of an airplane. And that she might, at the time the photo was taken, be pregnant with her future son, Geoffrey Hughes.

That Stephanie Wolf Hughes was a strong, brave, and adventurous woman is evident in the photo; her undefeatable character is also the inspiration behind a new scholarship at UNLV. Geoff Hughes ’81 established the Stephanie Wolf Hughes First Generation Scholarship in 2019 to honor his mother’s spirit, and to give other exceptional people a chance to soar.

“What’s surprising is that my mother was afraid of heights,” recalls Geoff, “but that didn’t stop her from jumping out of planes. That really speaks to her courage. But she did give up parachuting when she became a mom. She was a totally devoted mother.”

Geoff and his brother were raised primarily in Reno, Nevada where their single mother taught herself to be a draftsperson and got a job at a mining company. She later moved to Winnemucca. At the age of 18, Geoff came to UNLV. With support from his mother, a part-time job, and a scholarship funded by on-campus vending machine revenues, he lived in Tonopah Hall and studied accounting at what was then UNLV College of Business and Economics (now Lee Business School). The experience was life changing.

“I couldn’t have gotten a better education anywhere,” says Geoff, who graduated in 1981 as the first member of his family to receive a college degree. He parlayed his accounting degree into a job as controller for a paper conglomerate based in San Francisco. Several career advances and many years later, he became a co-owner and CFO of Heritage One Door and Building Solutions. The firm was acquired last fall by BMC Stock Holdings.

As he contemplates his successes, Geoff’s powerful sense of gratitude encompasses both his mother and his alma mater. “My mother taught me invaluable life lessons: be genuine, work hard, and treat everyone with respect. UNLV gave me the skills and experience to live those values and build a secure life for myself.

“Now, I’m at a point in my life where I can give back,” he says.

Geoff partnered with Diversity Initiatives to establish The Stephanie Wolf Hughes First Generation Scholarship, which will provide opportunities for first generation college students who are majoring in accounting through the Lee Business School. The scholarship application process is housed in the Office of Diversity Initiatives.

It is a lasting legacy to a bold, independent woman whose inner compass always landed her on her feet.