I haven't had this many opportunities to smile like an idiot or to tear up as I have this week. Monday evening was Harry's final banquet at Montgomery High School, his and my twelfth over four years. For the first time we (the leaders of the track and field booster club) put on the gala at Cherry Valley rather than in the commons at the high school. I called Josh at 5PM and he was there at 6:15, taking some amazing pictures of the young men and women.
Then on Tuesday I had the honor and privilege of presenting eight scholarships to very worthy recipients, having know some of them since they were little kids. They're not little anymore. It was an absolutely amazing event that was beautifully executed and a sheer pleasure for all involved. Many of those in this picture also received scholarships, another example of the well-rounded young people we have in our community.
The Rotary scholarships are given last. I followed some very worthy organizations. Mrs. Corie Gaylord ran the show, but other sports and civic leaders also presented their awards. Many were very emotional either because they were giving on behalf of someone they had lost or because they truly loved the recipient (ask me about that one).
I was able to take my time. I started by telling the kids that the first time I ever had contact with Rotary was as a senior at Amherst High School. I applied for the Rotary scholarship and was invited to breakfast with a bunch of old guys, where I had to talk about myself and display my wisdom and character. I was scared to death. I did NOT get the scholarship. I reminded the audience that they knew Rotary because of these scholarships or their involvement with Interact or seeing us at the 4H Fair or Fun Fest or, of course, the Run With Rotary. I then spoke about Rotary in general and our club in particular, about the members we have, the things we do and the causes we champion.
It was then time to award the scholarships. I first had to convince everyone that I personally had no impact on the decisions, even though I knew six of the eight kids, two of them very, very well. I rewrote the snapshots Kip had sent me to remove names and gender, leading to the reveal. The five $1,000 winners are Alex Drift, Julia Hans, Melissa Kolodziej, Collin Szczepanski, and Leona Tomy.
I then pilfered the writings of George and Dick and the rememberances of Bill Hyncik to talk about Harry Fenton and Andy Malek and Yumi Shibatani, highlighting the impact Yumi had on Harry, literally changing the man that he was.
The winner of the Harry Fenton Memorial Scholarship is Ta'Ja Warholic. This award is given to the student who exemplifies the qualities that made Harry so special to those who knew him: his benevolence, his energetic spirit and his warmth. Ta'Ja had a great night, winning at least two other awards. She is an oustanding young woman who will go far in life.
The winner of the Andy Malek Memorial Scholarship is Shrikeshav Deshmukh. This award is given to the student who has demonstrated Andy’s excellence in scholastic achievement and commitment to community service. Andy was tireless in his devotion to his family, to his church and to the Montgomery EMS. Shri carries an incredible workload, and the night before he won the MVP award for Track Events. He is a state-certified EMT and has volunteered countless hours with the Montgomery EMS.
The winner of the Yumi Shibatani Memorial Scholarship is Allison Rosenthal. This award is given to a student who plans to receive a baccalaureate degree at a four-year college or university. It recognizes a student who has demonstrated academic achievement, participated in extra-curricular activities and shown the potential to build bridges of understanding and friendship between people. Alli is one of Harry's best friends and is at our house all the time. I could not have been happier for her, and for all the winners of the Rotary and other scholarships.
I will never forget this night. It is the reason a Rotarian agrees to be president. It isn't a chore or an obligation, but rather a huge honor and privilege to be allowed to stand before the community and talk about the people and things he truly loves. I feel I received far more than I gave.
Yours in Rotary,