From coast to campus

California couple's endowed funds empower tomorrow's leaders across four colleges

Jennifer Laukonis, a student, sits behind her laptop computer in the MSU Library

From coast to campus

California couple's endowed funds empower tomorrow's leaders across four colleges

Alumna Lorelei Rockwell and her husband, Wayne Kennedy, have an enormous presence on  MSU’s campus.

Despite the fact that it’s been more than six decades since Lorelei graduated with her degree in office administration, and despite the fact that the retired real estate professionals live in the Bay Area, more than 2,000 miles away, their presence is everywhere.

It’s in four different colleges; in classrooms all over campus; and in the bright-eyed faces of future nurses, business leaders, the next generation of nature conservationists and aspiring filmmakers—any student who has received a scholarship from one of Lorelei and Wayne’s four endowed funds, created and named in honor of the people and programs they care about.

One of those students, fresh out of her last class of her last semester of college at MSU, walked into the Main Library on a sunny Friday afternoon in late April with a big smile on her face.

Her name? Jennifer Laukonis. The reason for the big smile? Excitement. Because at that point, just a handful of final projects and a trip across the stage in her cap and gown were all that stood between her and a very, very bright future.

Jennifer is what you’d call a “digital native,” who grew up with technology and an inherent sense of how to use it to build—and entertain—an audience. She started a YouTube channel, built a following and knew that she would eventually turn her high school hobby into a career in film.

She chose MSU for the same reason many in-state students do. She wanted that “big university close to home” vibe—where she could meet new people and try new things before dipping her toe in the much bigger world of the entertainment industry meccas on either coast or down south.

And after spending the majority of the 2020-2021 school year—her first as a college student—on Zoom, she spent the next three years collecting every quintessential college experience she could.

She lived on campus. She went to Orlando to participate in the Disney College Program. She joined the MSU Telecasters and took on the role of marketing and communications director—combining her love for video production with her public relations skills. And she interned with Paramount Pictures as their campus ambassador, coordinating events and helping promote their films to local audiences. She also received the Andre A. Blay Film Scholarship, created by Lorelei and Wayne in honor of Lorelei’s cousin, film industry mogul and fellow MSU alum Andre Blay.

Andre Blay earned both a B.A. in film production and an MBA from MSU. He launched his career by starting the nation’s first successful audiocassette and eight-track duplication company. Later, he became the first to pitch the idea of putting full-length movies on videocassettes. And, later still, he executive produced or helped secure funding for movies you’ve definitely heard of, including “The Blob” and “The Princess Bride.”

After his passing in 2018, he was remembered fondly by friends in and out of the industry as “The Father of Home Video.” And he was also remembered fondly by his cousin Lorelei, who ensured that future Spartan filmmakers would know about the guy who came before them and have some financial help along the way.

The scholarship, Jennifer says, was validation for all the experiences she had, and lessons learned and hard work that led up to it.

This is the part she hopes that Lorelei Rockwell and Wayne Kennedy hear the loudest when they read this story.

“It wasn’t just the money,” she says. “It was the whole process. It was putting together the application materials, reflecting on everything I’d done so far, describing myself and my goals and then finding out that I’d received the scholarship. It made me feel so confident in myself and in all the choices I’ve made so far.

“And of course it took away some of the financial burden, which is such a relief. But more than that, it was just a great reminder that I’m in the right place and I’m headed in the right direction.”

As of this spring, that direction was clear and very, very exciting, as Jennifer had just accepted a professional internship with Walt Disney Imagineering in Glendale, California. 

After that? She’ll go anywhere in the industry. Production, marketing, promotion. West Coast. East Coast. Anywhere in between. Wherever she can get her start, find her niche and launch a career the same way Andre Blay did.

“I am endlessly appreciative to be awarded this scholarship. To be tied to Andre Blay’s legacy in any way is an honor,” Jennifer says. “To know that an MSU grad made such an impact on the film industry, and to know that now it’s my turn to go out into the world and hopefully do the same.”

Benefiting more than 120 students...and counting!

Lorelei Rockwell and Wayne Kennedy created their ?rst scholarship in 2009 and have since given nearly $2 million to support their four named scholarship and fellowship funds across four colleges.

In addition to the Blay Film Studies Endowment in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, the Elizabeth Blay Maison Endowed Scholarship in the College of Nursing honors Lorelei’s mother, who devoted her career to nursing, while the Joseph Laurence Maison Endowment for ?sheries and wildlife graduate students in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources honors her father, a Michigan outdoorsman and hunter all his life. And the Lorelei Maison Rockwell MBA Scholarship in the Eli Broad College of Business honors Lorelei’s degree and career.

This school year, 33 students received more than $102,000 in financial aid from Rockwell and Kennedy’s scholarships—which, over the last two decades, have helped a total of more than 120 students and disbursed more than $360,000.

LEARN MORE about support for scholarships by contacting Associate Director of Development Madison Dugan at or by calling (517) 432-6493.

Author: Devon Barrett, '11