George E. Stifel began a large and successful career in merchandising when he was 14-years-old. By the time he was 77-years-old, he had made enough money in the department store business to establish an endowment that benefits today's students in the Ohio County School system.
Born in Wheeling, Virginia in 1849, Stifel started at Stone & Thomas and spent five years learning the dry goods trade. After leaving Stone & Thomas, he spent another ten years clerking at another department store. That gave him the confidence to partner with Fred C. H. Schwertfeger to operate what became the George E. Stifel Co. In its day, it was considered one of the finest department stores in the region.
One of the trustees of the Stifel Prize Awards, Joan Stamp, explained what motivated Stifel to create the endowment in 1926 that bears his name. "He had no grandchildren. He loved the city, and wanted to really spur the kids on to study hard, and that it was worth their time and energy."
More than two hundred students in the Ohio County School system received Stifel Prize Awards this year. Over $77,000 in awards went to deserving students. Students receive awards according to a formula based on grade point average and WESTEST 2 scores.
Stamp explained the cash prizes students receive from the Stifel Prize Award are theirs to use as they please. "It is not tied to college or anything. It's just their money to spend as they wish, as a reward for working so hard in school."
"The kids work very diligently," Stamp said. "This has become a very competitive award. The kids work hard. The money has grown over the years. I just think it's a wonderful thing, the kids really appreciate it."