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People Top 5
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PEOPLE Top 5 are the most-viewed stories on the site over the past three days, updated every 60 minutes
- July 24, 2000
- Vol. 54
- No. 4
Tennessean James Ayers Tells Local High Schoolers, 'If a College Will Have You, I'll Help You' with Cash
The results are remarkable: This year 81 seniors out of 125 are heading for higher ed. At first, many students were skeptical. " 'This is crap,' we all thought," says college-bound Whitnee Pearcy, 18. "But it is real. It's just hard to believe he's doing it."
A lumberman's son who shined shoes as a boy and sold bibles before earning an accounting degree at Memphis State University, Ayers is an avid traveler and hunter—his office sports the head of a 600-lb. antelope shot in Zimbabwe. Inspired by a CNN report about a Texan who made a similar gesture, he hopes his largesse enlarges his beneficiaries' worlds. "You enable people to get outside these communities," Ayers says, "and they realize there's a better quality of life to be lived."
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