The binary code of computer language that has been the driving force behind most emerging technology in the 21st century consists of a combination of 1s and 0s.
Bob Torras may be an old school engineer, but he speaks the language. The St. Simons Island resident made a powerful statement Wednesday on behalf of the advancement of such technology, using a single 1 and six 0s. These were the essential features on the $1 million check he presented to his alma mater, Georgia Tech.
The money establishes a scholarship fund at Georgia Tech for deserving local high school graduates who otherwise would not be able to attend the highly-respected engineering and technology school. The check was presented during an informal luncheon at the Lodge at Sea Island on St. Simons Island.
Torras, 85, recently retired as head of a vast family operation that includes the Brunswick Landing Marina, the Kut Kwick commercial mower manufacturer in Brunswick, Torco Inc. manufacturer in Kennesaw and the West Point Plantation community on St. Simons Island. Torras said he hopes the scholarship will inspire bright technologically-minded men and women here in Glynn County to aspire to their dreams, regardless of financial circumstances.
“Technology is the future for all young people if they want to emerge from the crowd,” said Torras, the son of the man who built the original F.J. Torras Causeway that connects St. Simons Island to the mainland. “With this scholarship, they will have the opportunity to go to one of the best technological schools in the country. I think if they start at a very young age, knowing that they have that opportunity, then perhaps their parents will help encourage them to strive for that goal, knowing these scholarships are available.”
The Robert M. Torras Sr. Scholarship Endowment Fund of the Georgia Tech Foundation will present its first scholarship to a graduate of a Glynn County high school next year. The foundation will add a second recipient in 2021 and add an additional student over the subsequent two years, until four local scholarships are granted annually, according to the terms of the endowment.
The Torras scholarships will provide students with the financial circumstances they lack to apply the academic merits they possess, realizing their dreams in the classrooms at Georgia Tech. The scholarships would potentially cover the entire costs of acquiring a four-year bachelor’s degree. In an earlier conversation with The News, Torras referred to deserving students of Brunswick High and Glynn Academy as the ideal recipients, but the scholarships are eligible also for private school graduates in Glynn County who qualify academically and demonstrate a financial need.
“This is just a game-changer for coastal Georgia,” said John B. Byrne Jr., Director of Development at Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business. “What we see often is a lot of students around the state have an ability to get into Georgia Tech but are limited by the family’s resources. This is the type of scholarship that changes the game for a lot of people. It really is just extraordinarily generous.”
With a nationwide emphasis on encouraging youngsters to excel in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum, scholarships such as this provide further incentive to pursue these fields, said Maryam Alavi, Dean and Professor of Information Systems at tech’s Scheller College.
“Technology is playing a major role in the way we create value, in the way we operate businesses,” she said. “It is really important that the future business movers, in addition to leadership and business acumen, are also tech savvy. This is a wonderful way to be able to afford that opportunity without letting the ability to pay get in the way.”
Himself a graduate of Glynn Academy, Torras went on to earn an engineering degree from Georgia Tech in 1955. After a stint as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force, Torras returned to Georgia Tech to pursue his master’s degree. He then bought a struggling manufacturing company in Kennesaw, building up Torco Inc. into Georgia’s leading producer of precision machine parts. Still later, he returned home to operate Kut Kwick and develop the Brunswick Landing Marina into the state’s largest saltwater marina.
Torras hopes a future recipient of his scholarship would likewise return to this community and invest his or her talents locally.
“I hope that it will get these young people to use all of their ability to its utmost potential,” he said. “I think it is of tremendous importance to this community to give this opportunity to young people who are not affluent, but who have the skills and the vision we need for the future.”