Illinois Parks & Recreation
November / December 1995 • Volume 26, Number 6
Joanne B. Wagner
College Scholarship Program
Elmhurst's Hometown Scholurship Offers Financial Opportunity for College Students
by Nancy Wasielewski
Young people growing up in Elmhurst, Illinois, have many opportunities to make recreation and leisure an important part of their lives through the Elmhurst Park District's wide range of recreation programs and first-class parks and facilities.
And if any of those young people want to take their interest in parks and recreation a step further, the district offers the Joanne B. Wagner Scholarship Program, which provides an annual financial award for hometown college students pursuing a career in parks, recreation and conservation.
As a member of the Elmhurst Park District board of commissioners from 1960 until her death in 1989, Joanne Butterfield Wagner was noted for her community service and leadership in Elmhurst. The scholarship in her name honors her work as Elmhurst's longest serving park board member and board president for six terms. Joanne Wagner dedicated twenty-nine years of her life to help develop the parks, provide recreational opportunities for Elmhurst residents and serve the leisure interests of the community. The Elmhurst Park District also named its community center "The Wagner Community Center" in her honor.
According to Carole Williams, Wagner's daughter, the idea for the scholarship was generated by the out- pouring of community support and financial donations received by the park district to be used for a memorial to the popular park board member following her death.
Looking back to that time, Carole Williams commented that the park district brought together a committee including herself, community members, board members and staff to determine how to use the money. "We thought of many uses for the money such as an art sculpture, formal garden or tree plantings," she said, "But we decided that with such a substantial amount of the money, we could start an annual college scholarship fund to provide some financial assistance for students interested in the field of parks, recreation and conservation. We saw the scholarship fund to provide some financial assistance for students interested in the field of parks, recreation and conservation. We saw the scholarship as a living memorial in my mother's name that could influence new generations of park users and encourage careers in the field she loved and worked so hard to promote."
The park district created the Wagner Memorial Committee to oversee and make recommendations to the Elmhurst Park District board regarding the disbursements of funds. The decision was made to leave the Memorial Fund's principle invested and use the interest generated for the scholarship. Additional money was raised for the Memorial Fund through fundraising dinners and sale of specially designed notecards featuring a drawing of the park district's conservatory. The first Wagner Scholarship for $300 was awarded in 1990. From 1991 to the present, the scholarship amount has been $500.
Scholarship applicants are asked to fill out a four-
page application stating their academic background and
achievements, career goals, and work and volunteer experience in the field. Applicants must also be:
Illinois Parks & Recreation • November/December 1995 • 33
The annual scholarship is publicized through press releases, the seasonal park district program brochures, flyers, bulletin board notices, letters to state and regional colleges with parks, recreation and conservation department, and in orientation programs for the summer seasonal staff.
The scholarship check is presented in April of each year. The scholarship application deadline is October 31 of the previous year. Following the application deadline each year, the Wagner Scholarship committee meets to review the application and select the recipient.
The six Wagner Scholarship winners to date have been energetic young people with creative ideas and strong skills who have demonstrated their leadership through their summer employment at the park district and through local and college-related volunteer experiences in parks and recreation. Most have gone on to pursue parks and recreational careers.
"One of the things my mother was always so proud about was the Elmhurst Park District's staff. She felt the board went to great efforts to find the best qualified people to work for the park district," commented Williams. "I think she would also be proud to know this scholarship is helping to educate and develop the skills of her hometown's young people so that they can be the best qualified leaders for park districts in the future."
Nancy Wasielewski works part-time for the Elmhurst Park District as public information coordinator. She has a Journalism degree from the University of Illinois and has been with the Elmhurst Park District for twelve years.
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Sam S. Manivong, Illinois Periodicals Online Coordinator