University of Findlay
By: Natasha Lancaster
University of Findlay is honored to announce the creation of a new scholarship endowment fund in memory of alumna Alexandria “Ali” Gokey, class of 2016.
The new Alexandria “Ali” Gokey Memorial Scholarship began with a lead gift contribution of $10,000 by a confidential donor to forever recognize the contributions, kindness, and character displayed by Ali Gokey during her lifetime.
Ali was known by many to be a kind-hearted person who always wore a smile and had an unrivaled passion for horses. As Courtney Sheely, close friend and peer of Ali, put it, “she could have a bad day, and you would never know it. And that’s just who she was.”
“Ali had a vibrancy for life that was unprecedented. She woke up early every morning with great enthusiasm to take on the day, especially when it involved heading to the barn,” said Ali’s mother, Julie Gokey. “Her quiet, gentle and thoughtful nature made her a joy to be around.”
A true horse lover from the start, Ali trained her own wild mustang, dabbled in English jumping, loved a good pleasure horse, had a passion for the all-around events such as trail and horsemanship, and never missed a season of thoroughbred horse racing. Though she grew up in sunny Southern California, Ali caught wind of the stellar Western Equestrian Program at University of Findlay, and left the sun and sand for the Midwest.
During her time at Findlay, Ali’s commitment to obtaining a marketing degree and her dedication to the equestrian program never wavered. She knew that to support her dreams and desires, she needed both. “Ali was a serious student, asking questions, possessing a deep desire to learn and be correct in her training methods,” said Clark Bradley, coordinator of student activities and trainer in the western riding program. “Even if she had a difficult horse, she would work until the situation got better, never giving up.”
“As a four-year western equestrian student, Ali left a huge impact on our program,” said Meri Marsh, director of equestrian studies and equine management. “She had a very distinct and natural love for horses, and she prioritized their care and well-being in such a mature and objective way, wise beyond her years.”
A member of Findlay’s Western Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) team for all four years, Ali fell in love with the atmosphere and the discipline of reining. “I’ll never forget her reining final exam show on Coaster, who was a talented yet challenging school horse,” Meri recalled. “Quiet, understated, unassuming Ali really called on Coaster during her final, asking for all he had, and he delivered. She laid it all out there in the arena that day. That’s when I really learned what our horses can do for our students. Coaster gave her confidence and conviction, and he performed for her at such a high level, as if he knew of her respect and devotion to him.”
Ali graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Marketing and an Associate of Arts Degree in Equestrian Studies with a Western Riding Emphasis.
After graduation, Ali went on to become an assistant trainer for several National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) professionals. “Ali’s dream was to buy and sell reining horses. Numerous conversations and pleas about investing in horses was something I could count on each time my phone rang,” said Matt Gokey, Ali’s father. “My answer was always the same: ‘sounds like you’ll need a good paying job to purchase those horses.’ She was always determined to take her career to the next level to fulfill her dreams.”
In April 2018, Ali was suddenly diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia. Through the many grueling treatments and hospitalizations, Ali’s faith and character, “never wavered,” said Courtney.
Her sister, Amber Gokey, stated, “Ali fought courageously, with such strength and grace every day and never complained. She was an inspiration to me and so many others.” Amber continued to say, “Ali’s love and care for her horse, Pablo, and plans for his future, were always her top priority and biggest joy. She had the most positive outlook on life, even during the most challenging times.”
As Ali would say, “life changes, but stay always dreaming.”
After a courageous battle, Ali went to heaven in February 2020. Though her time here was far too short, Ali’s impact on her family, friends, the University, and the equine industry is immeasurable.
“Ali represented a true love for horses and for the industry,” said Meri. “This scholarship is intended to provide educational opportunities to students who embody these same ideals. By recognizing Ali’s integrity through the impression that she left on us, we hope that her legacy will continue to impact our programs and future graduates.”
Amber stated, “our desire is that this scholarship will provide an opportunity for a student to follow in Ali’s footsteps, impacting the University and equine industry, while making their dreams a reality.”
Once endowed, the Alexandria “Ali” Gokey Memorial Scholarship will be awarded annually. Specific criteria will be created to capture the unique character qualities of Ali, and the equestrian student who best displays those qualities will be eligible to receive the scholarship.
Findlay is accepting gifts to the scholarship endowment which can be made online on the Alexandria “Ali” Gokey Memorial Scholarship Fund webpage. For more information on the scholarship or ways to give, please contact Ken McIntyre, director of gift planning, at 419-434-4794 or email@example.com.