CiCi’s Pizza CEO Surprises Student with $10,000 Scholarship

“Stuff Dreams Are Made Of” grand prize winner pursuing Mechanical Engineering degree at the University of St. Thomas

September 04, 2015 // // ST. PAUL, MN – Austin Otto thought he was being interviewed by a local reporter about the 3D printing project he is working on at the University of St. Thomas.

Little did he know that the “reporter” was actually CiCi’s Pizza CEO Darin Harris, who had traveled from Dallas to personally present the student with a $10,000 scholarship as the Grand Prize winner of CiCi’s “Stuff Dreams Are Made Of” contest.

“It’s always fun to surprise someone with good news, but it’s especially rewarding when you know you’re helping a young person achieve his life goals,” said Harris, who revealed his true identity during the interview as Austin’s parents walked in with a large $10,000 check. “Austin is an impressive young man with some great ambitions, so it was a pleasure to get to meet him and to experience in person the passion he has for his education.”

Otto, a sophomore Mechanical Engineering major at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, was one of 1,165 entrants in a Facebook scholarship contest conducted by CiCi’s to celebrate the introduction of its new Stuffed Crust Pizza. The contest invited guests to take a photo inside any CiCi’s location and submit the photo – along with a description (in 50 words or less) of how the scholarship will help the entrant achieve his or her dreams – on the CiCi’s Facebook page, Entrants then encouraged friends and family to vote for their submission.

The seven images attracting the most votes over the 28-day voting period were the finalists. A judging panel at CiCi’s then ranked the finalists based on originality, creativity and individuality to determine the winners. In addition to Otto, Justin Smith, a freshman at Grand Valley State studying Business Management, won a $5,000 scholarship as the runner-up and the five other finalists each received $1,000 scholarships.

“Engineering has been my dream since picking up my first Lego brick,” said Otto in his official entry. “I have a strong interest in 3D printing and manufacturing/materials. Since I am paying for college myself, a scholarship would help me focus on the rigorous engineering curriculum instead of how to pay my next tuition bill.”

Otto drives roughly 90 minutes to the CiCi’s in Rochester, MN, where he enjoys the restaurant’s endless pizza, pasta, salad, soup and dessert buffet, all for just $5 and change.

“Honestly, I was already a big fan of CiCi’s and their new Stuffed Crust Pizza, but winning this contest has made me a loyal customer for life!” said Otto.

For the CiCi’s location nearest you, visit BETTER. BELIEVE IT.

About CiCi’s Pizza

CiCi’s Pizza invented the Unlimited Pizza Buffet concept, driven by a belief in making life more flavorful by empowering guests to find the flavors they love. At nearly 450 restaurants strong in 32 states, Entrepreneur recognized CiCi’s on its Franchise 500 list in 2015. CiCi’s also won the Technomic 2014 Consumers’ Choice award for best kid-friendly quick service restaurant. For more information about CiCi’s, visit or

For franchising information, contact Michael Iglesias at or 972-745-9313 or visit

SOURCE CiCi’s Pizza

Media Contact:

Ladd Biro
Champion Management
Founder & Principal
O: 972.930.9933
C: 817.675.3499


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Cicis invented the Unlimited Pizza Buffet concept, driven by a belief in making life more flavorful by empowering guests to find the flavors they love.


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