John Coveyou ’11: A circuitous route to entrepreneurship

Alumnus and veteran reflects on the meaning and impact of his scholarship

When John Coveyou applied to Washington University, he didn’t expect to get in. “Receiving the letter of acceptance was simultaneously one of the most exciting and depressing moments of my life,” he says. “I had to face the reality that I had the potential to do something great, but there was no way I could afford it.”

John Coveyou
John Coveyou

John had left home at age 16. He thought about dropping out of high school but enrolled in the Army Reserve instead, completing basic training between his junior and senior years. After graduating, he enrolled at St. Louis Community College at Meramec. A few months into his first semester, he was deployed to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.

During that deployment, John spent his free time reading textbooks and watching lectures online. When he returned to Meramec two years later, he excelled. “For the first time, I had professors tell me I was smart and capable,” he says. “It’s unbelievable what those few words will do for a self-conscious young mind.”

Getting into Washington University was an even more meaningful boost, despite his lack of financial resources. He learned about his scholarship award after his acceptance letter arrived. Receiving the scholarship to Washington University in 2007 changed his life, he says. When he was sent to Iraq after his first semester at Washington University, the university held his scholarship for him. He earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies in 2010 and a master’s degree in chemical engineering in 2011.

Today, John is focused on building Genius Games, a company he founded in 2011 to develop science-themed games. The company currently has four games in its lineup. “I love what I do,” he says. “It’s satisfying to know my games will help educate the next generation.”