Rotary has given $3M plus to college-bound students
Special Features Editor
It began with a generous gift of $10,000 to local students given in memory of Rotarian Gus White, a charter member and past district governor of the world-wide organization.
The giving, however, has multiplied through the graduation cycles until — 26 years later — more than $3 million has flowed from generous business men and women, supportive local citizens and dedicated educators to students with a desire to expand their educational horizons.
Today at noon, 113 students completing their high school careers this year at Union City, Obion County Central and South Fulton high schools formally received the announcement of their scholarships from members of the Union City Rotary Club. Included in that number were some alumni of the three schools in Obion County who are currently attending qualified colleges, universities and technical schools.
The occasion was marked with the luncheon at Union City First Baptist Church family life center, according to scholarship committee chairman Roger Williams.
“I consider it an honor to be associated with an organization like the Union City Rotary Club that cares so much about the people of this county. I have never heard of any other civic organization from an area our size who has given so much support to the young people of their community. The support from the businesses and individual donors has been overwhelming, and I would like to thank them for their continued support of a program that means so much for so many. When you see the difference this has made in the lives of these students who have received scholarships from this Rotary Club, it certainly gives you a sense of satisfaction,” Williams said.
In addition to the students who were honored today, the Rotary Club scholarship committee — which also includes Rotarians Steve Vaughn, Newell Graham, Gary Houston, Bob Regen, Ron Green, Clint Joiner, Jim Cawley and Dave Schlager — has also made awards of $168,000 to 120 UCHS alumni who are already engaged in higher education pursuits. The banquet to celebrate these awards will be June 6. Funds to support their continuing efforts come from the F. Fern Verhine Trust, which is administered by the Rotary Scholarship Committee. This gift of $3.5 million was provided with the understanding that the endowment’s proceeds be used exclusively to assist UCHS graduates. The decision was made to direct the fund’s earnings to students who have already proven their commitment to education by completing at least one year of higher education successfully, according to Williams.
A second specifically directed endowment, with proceeds this year of $6,000, is distributed by the scholarship committee and is ear-marked for students from OCCHS who plan to become teachers themselves and are in their junior or senior year of college. The gift was made by the late Elmo Worley to memorialize her sister, long-time Obion County School System educator Madge Short.
Scholarships from the Union City Rotary Club are awarded primarily on the basis of financial need; however, there are a very limited number of scholarships based on scholastic achievement and/or study in a particular field. The scholarship committee always considers financial need first and the students are ranked according to this need; then, for high school seniors, the committee must give consideration to the student’s interview. Third, any special requirements specified by the donor are considered to determine the final award selection, Williams said.
This year businesses and individuals from Obion County donated $100,000 during the annual scholarship drive, and an additional sum of $30,150 came from interest earned on endowments — in addition to those listed above — given over the years by many generous contributors.
Rotary Club International was founded in 1905 with the first club in Chicago and has since grown worldwide to include clubs in 167 countries with 1.2 million members. Members of the Rotary Club are a diverse group of professional leaders working to address various community and international service needs and to promote peace and understanding throughout the world.
The Union City Rotary Club was chartered Sept. 2, 1936, and now has approximately 140 members. It’s history of scholarship generosity that began with the White memorial was quickly expanded when another Rotarian, the late Hardy Graham, decided to start a trust fund for scholarships with a personal donation of $1,000.
In 1983 the former Old & Third National Bank (now Commercial Bank) took a look at a trust fund under its direction that had been left in a will for scholarships. Trust officer John Pylant asked if the banking institution could join forces with Rotary Club to make the processing of applicants easier. Thus began the formal Union City Rotary Club Scholarship program.
“We are certainly thankful to all these donors for their interest in giving back to the community because without them there would be no scholarship program,” Williams said. “Since 1982 the Union City Rotary Club has helped more than 2,300 students from Obion County and awarded $3,274,035 in scholarships. This year the Union City Rotary Club divided a total of $298,150 in scholarships among 233 students.”
For more information about the Rotary Scholarship program, visit the organization’s Web site at www.unioncityrotary.org or contact a guidance counselor at one of the three high schools whose graduates benefit from the program.
Published in The Messenger 5.9.08