A small Rotary fundraising event over 70 years ago sets a community on the path to ensuring future generations of students have access to funds and options for higher education and better opportunities.
The Boothbay Region Student Aid Fund has its roots in the scholarship fund established by the Boothbay Harbor Rotary Club in March, 1957. The fund was for any worthwhile post high school education, with students being interviewed and grant recommendations being made to the Rotary Club Directors. Their first fund raising event was a combined beauty pageant and ball with a Portland based orchestra. The net result of this effort was $17. Over the next several years, Rotary made grants to students “away at school” and graduating seniors.
In the late 1950's and early 1960's there was aid available for local students coming from a variety of local organizations and possibly individuals. Criteria for an award was established by the giver. Groups like the Boothbay Harbor Rotary Club, Summer Residents Association, Daughters of the American Revolution and others extended scholarships on the basis of academic achievement or other standards established by their particular group. As well intentioned as these awards were and very helpful to recipients, there was little or no consistency within the community in standards on how an award was given.
At this time there were no awards based only on financial need. This was a disadvantage for the student who was capable of college work but couldn’t qualify for academic scholarships and/or lacked the funds for continued education. Another significant barrier was the culture of the times. A college education was not always seen as necessary by many families. There was also some reluctance to reveal financial information as it was thought to be nobody’s business. Many young people ceased their education upon receipt of their high school diploma.
Things began to change in the early 1960’s. After a brief stint as a classroom teacher, Marvin Rosenblum became the guidance counselor at BRHS. The position of guidance counselor, now very much an integral part of the academic landscape, was relatively new at this time. Rosenblum saw that all the guidance wasn’t worth anything if the student couldn’t afford to continue their education beyond high school. In 1962, fewer than 20% of the Boothbay Region's graduates went on to any post- secondary education.
This issue of lack of funding for higher education was also a concern shared by several education watchers in the community – Bud Logan, Dr. John Andrews and his wife Jeanne, officers of Canal Bank, and Bernie O’Donnell of Depositors Trust Bank, to name a few.
In April of 1964, a group of citizens looked into the proper procedure and created a need-based aid organization. June of that year saw the establishment of the Boothbay Region Scholarship Fund with Rotarians among the officers. Officers included Willian Danforth, President; Keith Walbridge, Vice President; Blanche Marshall, Secretary;and Ruth Dodge, Treasurer, with William Danforth, Bernard O’Donnell, Kenneth Walbridge, Marvin Rosenblum, Rev Allen Broyles, Ruth Dodge, and Blanche Marshall as Directors. Tax exempt status was also obtained from the IRS, recognizing the organization as a 501 (c)3 non-profit entity.
Early fundraising was done by the Mothers’ Marches. Every January for several years, 25-50 mothers (and fathers) from all over the Boothbay Region gathered in the Harbor to receive assignments and then literally went to march “door to door” in cold, ice and snow soliciting monies as part of the Student Aid Fund’s Annual Campaign.
The march lasted about a week each year. While the funds raised were modest, the consciousness raised was amazing. The Mothers’ Marches were proof that community support was there. The message of these annual marches was simple – whether or not you have children, or whether your child is too young or has already graduated from high school, think of the next generation of children because this fund makes options possible.
On February 13th, 1978 the name of the fund was changed to the Boothbay Region Student Aid Fund, Inc.
Through the generosity of many local organizations and individuals, $3,500 was awarded to 10 graduates the first year (1964-65). In 1977 awards totaling $18,000 were given; in 1994 it was $50,000 in awards, and by 1999 the amount awarded had increased to $151,000. The year 2002 saw 90 grants totaling $180,276 awarded, while in 2019 the Fund provided $405,000 to 82 graduates and alumni. Over the years, community support has grown to include many businesses and foundations. The Boothbay Region Student Aid Fund has awarded $2,874,000 in grants during the past nine years from 2012-13 through 2020-21.
Kathryn is a Boothbay Harbor native who attended Bentley College in Waltham, MA majoring in Business Economics. After college Kathryn worked as a senior bank examiner in the Boston Region of the FDIC. Returning to Boothbay Harbor in 2001, she and her husband Peter purchased the Bayside Inn B&B. The inn was Kathryn’s childhood home and the business had been established by her parents. Kathryn and Peter have two children. In addition to running the B&B, Kathryn works as a loan specialist for the Small Business Administration reviewing COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). She has been active on many local boards, including the Boothbay Harbor Memorial Library, Meals on Wheels, Boothbay Region Student Aid Fund and the Boothbay Region District Nurse Association.
Karl graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture and a minor in community planning. Knowing he wanted to help others and coming from a family where medicine was a business, he was certain he was going to become a doctor as medicine was the most logical and influential field he thought of. But his academic development led him to help others through design to satisfy a need for his creative outlet while integrating his passion he found in medicine. Karl found landscape architecture a great balance between both callings. After an award-winning academic career that was built on service-learning projects allowing him to focus on finding solutions to real problems in real communities, Karl joined the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens horticulture department where he promotes human psychology and health through connections between people to people, people to place, and people to the environment. Karl has always been and continues to be involved.
Rob has been in the financial services industry for over 20 years. After attending Bentley College, he started in the banking industry spending the majority of his time at Key Bank. In 2001, Rob left banking to join the insurance industry with J. Edward Knight & Co. He ultimately purchased the agency in 2009 and now operates six agency locations in Midcoast Maine. Having grown up in the Boothbay region, he enjoys boating and many types of outdoor activities. Rob lives on Barters Island with his wife Sandy and daughter. He is actively involved with several local and national insurance industry councils, is a past commodore of the BHYC, past president of BRSAF, and has served on numerous nonprofit boards. Rob and his business are amazing community supporters.