Scholarship honors one special teacher, many more pursuing education careers
Jim Ford started a scholarship to honor his father 36 years ago. He did it because his dad — Charles “Ben” Ford, ’35, “was a wonderful educator and under appreciated — in my judgment,” notes Jim.
Ben was a long-term teacher and coach in several school districts, including the Colfax School District in northern Wisconsin.
The Charles E. Ford scholarship was established in 1980 before Ben died. It has continued to recognize people pursuing careers in education for more than three decades. And some of the UWL student scholarship recipients have very closely followed in Ben’s career path.
The first scholarship recipient has now taught and coached in the Colfax School District for more than 30 years. Tim Devine, ’84, still recalls rather vividly receiving the Charles E. Ford scholarship as a UWL freshman. It helped him with that monthly check he wrote for $87.07 to pay off his student loan.
“You remember that amount when you pay it 120 times,” says Devine. “Although the cost of a college education was much more affordable when I went to school, it was still a costly venture. The Ford Scholarship helped to offset my financial burden associated with college.”
Devine calls receiving the scholarship one of the most amazing memories from his UWL days. But he almost didn’t attend the scholarship banquet because he wasn’t expecting to receive anything.
He was swayed to attend by his roommate and the promise of food and drink.
“What college kid do you know who turns down free food?,” jokes Devine. “When my name was announced, all I remember is my roommate laughing and the sense of relief I felt for wearing something nicer than a T-shirt and blue jeans.”
Devine received a scholarship for $500 that night, but that summer he received a letter from UWL’s Foundation Office informing him that his scholarship would increase to $1,000 because the Ford family decided to double the amount after reading the thank you letter he wrote to Mr. and Mrs. Ford.
“Needless to say, I was very excited with this news,” he says.
Because Devine understood the impact of that scholarship in his life, he didn’t hesitate when asked to give back to his alma mater by reviewing scholarship applications. He was shocked when he coincidentally received the Charles E. Ford scholarship to review this spring. Today the scholarship also honors Jim’s mother, Marian, who earned her elementary education teaching certificate from La Crosse State in the late 1950s.
Reviewing applications has reconnected Devine with the Ford family who is now able to see who scholarship recipients become in 30 years time. Devine and Jim met for the first time at the Sunday, April 24, scholarship reception.
Jim says it has been a special joy to connect with Devine who “exemplifies what we have envisioned as an outcome from the scholarships.”
Jim and his wife, Judy, recently increased the scholarship amount so that three, $5,000 scholarships will be awarded for 2016-17. Jim says his father would likely be surprised, but also pleased and proud at the difference the scholarship has made in the lives of students.
“We feel strongly about training the best possible students for careers in education,” says Jim.