Greenwich Scholarship Association honored for 40 years of work

Just days before they were set to bid farewell, members of the 2012 Greenwich High School graduating class received one last gift courtesy of the Greenwich Scholarship Association (GSA).

At a special ceremony last Thursday, the GSA awarded $450,000 scholarships to 126 students. The scholarships came from sponsors from all over town, including local businesses, families and sports and community organizations. The independent, all-volunteer non-profit organization marked its 40th year at the ceremony and even received a citation from First Selectman Peter Tesei where he declared June 15 to be “Scholarship Day” in Greenwich.

“This organization really personifies what’s best about Greenwich in terms of people coming together to provide their talents and provide treasure to benefit the greater good and benefit our young people,” Mr. Tesei said. He added in his proclamation that Greenwich is not immune to the difficult financial times and that because of the rising costs of higher education, local students might not have the chance to go onto college or a university without help from the GSA.

“Thank you for all you do and all you will continue to do for the enrichment of our young people’s lives by furthering their education,” Mr. Tesei said. “If there’s anything that speaks to the beauty and what’s wonderful about this town then take a picture of all the young people here tonight and the members of our community who are helping them.”

Mr. Tesei then stuck around to personally present the Greenwich Republican Town Committee’s annual James L. Branca Memorial Scholarship to Caroline Pannone and James Wetmore.

Mr. Tesei was just one of the community members to hand out the more than 100 different scholarships. For decades, GSA has worked to help local businesses, organizations and families that have wanted to establish scholarships to connect with deserving students. The volunteers on the GSA boards go through all the applications from students and connect them with the scholarships, many of which are given under specific criteria such as areas of study.

So many of the scholarships were in memory of people and often the money was given toward students whose interests were similar to the person the scholarship was named after. A scholarship given by Christopher and Karen Harris in memory of their son Christopher Harris Jr. went to Alana Hodgdon, who had shown the same love of music their son had, and a scholarship named for Brian Macken, who played varsity hockey at GHS, was given to Ryan Corrigan, a teammate of Brian’s when they won the FCIAC title.

Former Board of Estimate and Taxation member Robert Stone and his daughter, Niki, presented the Becky Stone Memorial Scholarship to Daniel Chudy. Before her death, Ms. Stone had been instrumental in establishing GHS’ highly regarded student intern program.

“American exceptionalism has been widely discussed and clearly Becky, who we lost about two years ago, was a prime example of it,” Mr. Stone said. “American exceptionalism is also on display here tonight throughout this auditorium and in the senior class of the high school.”

Sisters Deirdre Daly Haft and Dolores Daly gave a scholarship in tribute to their mother, a former first grade teacher at Julian Curtiss School who raised them as a single parent after the death of their father and believed that education was the key to sucess.

“Having been a beneficiary of a scholarship herself as a very young student and having had a will to succeed she achieved her goal of being the first person in her family to not only graduate from college but receive a Master’s Degree,” Ms. Daly said. “Our mother was fortunate enough to find success from her own hard work and an opportunity that was provided to her by others. She believed strongly in giving back to others so they could achieve their own dreams.

The list of organizations giving out scholarships last week was long and varied. In addition to local businesses like Rudy’s Limousine, Linda and Steven B. Fox Family Jewelers and Chicken Joe’s, the police and fire unions gave out awards as did the Greenwich Housing Authority, the Greenwich Old Timer’s Club, Greenwich Rotary Club, Friends of Greenwich Point and others, including local churches and synagogues. The Greenwich PTA Council gave out 33 awards of $850 apiece and the GHS PTA gave out 33 more at $750 apiece.

Superintendent of Schools Roger Lulow called it a “wonderful event” and noted that the number of students receiving scholarships last week equaled one fourth of the graduating class.

“No community could do more than Greenwich is doing and all of us involved with the schools are proud to be associated with this community,” Dr. Lulow said.

GHS Headmaster Chris Winters thanked the GSA in his remarks for helping students go on to further their education after high school.

“An American ideal is that we can strive for equal opportunity,” Mr. Winters said. “In the 21st century, the ability to attend college is a critical component of equal opportunity. One’s chances for success as an adult are greatly enhanced by a college degree. Thanks to the generous scholarships being given out tonight, scholarships that these students have worked hard to earn, many students will be able to attend college with far less financial strain on themselves and their families.

The event also had support from the U.S. Congress as Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct.) and Rep. Jim Himes (D-4), both of whom are town residents, sent letters congratulating the students and thanking the GSA for its efforts. Mr. Himes called the GSA “an essential resource and a vital part of the community.” Mr. Blumenthal said that the organization’s impact is felt nationally as students use the scholarships to attend schools all over the country and then establish themselves in careers thanks to the degrees they earned with help from the GSA.

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