"Is this really happening?"
That was what Melissa Mainer of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania immediately thought when Benjamin Olewine first made the suggestion to pay all of her tuition.
Mainer, who was going to college for nursing, faced a mountain of debt fueled by school loans.
"Work, work, work, work, work," was her plan to pay them off, she told the CBS Evening News.
That was her plan, at least, until Olewine entered the picture.
Olewine, the chairman emeritus at Sysco Central Pennsylvania, had made millions throughout his life. He also happened to frequent the diner Mainer was working as a waitress at.
One day, after learning of her situation, he made the offer.
"I said, 'Melissa, I'd be happy to pay your tuition.' And that's exactly how it happened," Olewine recounted to the CBS Evening News.
Mainer was stunned. Olewine reiterated to her several times, "Bring in your tuition bill so I can pay the darn thing!"
Three years and $20,000 later, Mainer is now a debt-free registered nurse. But, she still remembers every detail about the day that forever changed her life.
"His bill I can remember was three dollars and 45 cents," she said.
Mainer says her next goal is to get a master's degree — and she already has someone who has volunteered to cover the costs.
"Well, I'm known as a big tipper," Olewine says.
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