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Living legacy: Pat Scott scholarship ends after 43-year run

By Erika Pedroza | Published Wednesday, June 5, 2013

All good things must come to an end, and in the case of the Patrick Scott Memorial Scholarship, it came in inevitable but generous fashion.

After a 43-year stint, the award was presented last Tuesday for the last time – to its 72nd and 73rd recipients, Decatur High School seniors Paris Walther and Jasmine Walia.

“It’s a darn good run,” said Mark Jordan, the scholarship’s first recipient in 1970. “I received $280 that first year, and to not only continue all these years, but to substantially increase, it’s remarkable, and an incredible homage to Pat Scott.”

This year’s recipients each got $2,150. But like most in recent years, the two didn’t have the privilege of knowing Pat Scott, who is believed to be Decatur’s first casualty of the Vietnam War.

That illustrates the disconnect that hindered the scholarship’s funding, leading organizers to the difficult decision to terminate it after this year.

“At one time, a lot of people in the community gave to the scholarship, and for the first 20 or so years, we knew many of the kids applying and receiving the scholarship,” said the scholarship’s coordinator, Stephen Wren. He and Pat’s older brother, Mike, have been best friends since they were 3.

“Through the years, as more and more people have come in, less and less people know about Pat Scott,” he said. “Consequently, contributions have fallen off, and that’s that’s to be expected. It’s been 43 years.”

“That’s been such a long time ago that kids today don’t remember Pat Scott,” Mike said. “They obviously did not grow up in that era where Vietnam was still in people’s minds. Over the years, people have forgotten that era, and the contributions have not been as many. We just felt that after all these decades that it was the right time to go ahead and stop it.”

It was a difficult, but appropriate decision that came naturally.

“It happens,” said Mike, who retired from the U.S. Air Force as a full colonel in 2002. He and his wife, Susan, live in Colorado.

“There was another scholarship in memory of Jim Cartwright, who was also killed in an explosion. His class set up a scholarship, and it ran for many years. But the funds were depleted from it four or five years ago. Sometimes these things just run their natural course, and it comes a time when it’s time to not do it anymore.”

Mike and Wren are confident that Pat’s memory lives on in the accomplishments of the 73 recipients selected since 1970 (see sidebar). In one way or another, each reflects the life their beloved friend and brother might have lived.

THE NATURAL

Friends and family describe Pat as a popular and affable guy who made friends as easily as he made good grades.

“I hardly ever saw him open a book to study,” Mike recalled. “I, on the other hand, was always struggling. I had to study to make average grades. But, even without studying, he would make better grades than me, and that was frustrating. It came more naturally to him than it did to me. So I had to resign myself to the fact that Pat was smarter than me. He got more of the brain cells than I did.”

In high school, he served as student council president, played football, ran distance events in track and was selected an all-school favorite.

Only a year apart, Mike and Pat grew up like twins during the ’50s and ’60s in a world much different than today’s, Mike said.

“A kid’s life back then consisted of being outside, climbing trees and, depending on what sport or season it was, we were in our backyard or our neighbor’s backyard playing football or baseball or basketball,” he said. “We didn’t have all of the gadgets to distract us. It was truly a fun time.”

He recalls a childhood filled with treks across a creek behind their home on College Street.

“Nearly every day after school, the neighborhood kids would head down to that creek and go exploring, running up and down it,” said Mike.

“We would dare Pat to take a plunge, and there he would go. If we challenged him to a race, he took us on. He was adventuresome and willing to try anything, even the not-so-wise,” Mike recalled, stifling a chuckle. It was that spirit of adventure, paired with a high sense of patriotism, that led him to join the Marines.

“He wanted to serve his country, even though he could’ve easily gone to college, where he would’ve breezed through because of his intelligence,” Mike said. “He would be successful in anything he wanted to do. He wanted to serve his country. Unfortunately, that did not turn out well.”

The summer after he graduated from Decatur High School in 1968 – a year after Mike and Wren – Pat enlisted in the military. He underwent basic training and then Vietnamese language school in Monterrey, Calif., before deploying and arriving at Vietnam on June 5, 1969.

He was only there a month and a day when an accident claimed his life.

“He was on a demolition squad, which obviously involves explosives,” Mike recalled. “They had returned to camp, and the squad members were unloading all of their gear when some freak accident caused an explosion. That’s how he was killed.”

Wren vividly remembers that somber July morning.

“Probably about 6 o’clock as I recall, my parents came into my room with terrible news,” Wren said. “Pat Scott was killed in Vietnam. It was the farthest thing from my mind. It was during the hype of the Vietnam War, and I knew people were getting killed. But I had not known another who had, and I would have never imagined it be such a dear friend.”

After dressing himself, Wren and his family joined his best friend and his loved ones, who mourned.

“It was especially devastating for my mother, as it would be for any mother who loses a child no matter what the cause,” Mike said. “It’s something I know she never got over. No matter what the circumstances are, it is a very difficult struggle to go through.”

They did not struggle alone.

“It’s one of the saddest things I’ve ever experienced, considering how close our families are,” Wren said. “When one family hurts, many families hurt. That’s the way it was with Pat. It’s one of those experiences you never forget; one you never get over.”

LEGACY OF LEARNING

But just as families grieved together, they also coped together. The following year, close family friends Ann Nobles and Tom Gettys established the Patrick Scott Memorial Scholarship, to be funded through a special offering at their church, First Baptist in Decatur,

“They felt like it would be good to honor Pat’s memory by allowing the opportunity to give to children planning on going to college,” Wren said.

The originial committee included Gettys; Dr. W.M. Lewis, a retired vet who lived in Decatur and was also a member of the First Baptist Church; the Decatur High School principal; the pastor of First Baptist; and Elizabeth Scott, Pat’s mother.

“We were all really appreciative of this nice gesture, my mother especially,” Mike said. “For many, many years she made it a point to attend honors night to present the scholarship.”

Her personal delivery made the honor even more special for those recipients, including Leddy Foster, who was awarded the scholarship in 1999.

“I’ll never forget it,” he said. “I worked at IGA, where she would always come in to do her grocery shopping. She had not put a name with the face yet, but at the awards night, she called my name and as I approached the stage, she exclaimed, ‘Oh, this is my IGA boyfriend!’”

After Mrs. Scott passed away in a tragic accident in 2002, organizers asked Wren to step in.

“Of course I did; I felt very honored to be asked to do it,” he said. “But I always relied on Mike. Every year since I’ve been doing it, I’ve sent all of the information to Mike so that he has more input. That’s the way it should’ve been. It was his brother, and I felt like if I was going to be a part of this, Mike should be a part of it, too.”

After graduating college at what is now the University of North Texas, Mike joined the service, which took him far from his hometown.

Wren pursued a law career that brought him back to Wise County, facilitating his involvement with the scholarship.

“Mr. Gettys took care of it for a number of years, but when his health started failing, he asked me to take over, knowing Mike and I were good friends,” Wren said. “Again, I was truly honored to do it.”

And again, Wren called on the input of his best friend, along with the rest of the committee, to determine a recipient – or two, depending on the funds available.

“We looked for, number one, character,” Wren said. “That’s the biggest factor.”

To help gauge that, the committee carefully reviewed essays written by the applicants outlining why they wanted the scholarship, what their hopes and goals were and what they wanted to pursue in life.

“I really focused on that,” Mike said. “By reading all the different ones you could get a feel for that person’s character and what they were like, even though you never met them.”

In addition to potential, consideration was given to extracurricular involvement and grades.

“The selected student are not necessarily those who had the best grades,” Wren said. “We always looked for good grades, and if there’s a failing grade, that may indicate a person is not really dedicated enough. But it was not the single, most important factor.”

Mike said he also gave considerable weight to financial need.

“Some of the applicants that were top in their class, and I knew they probably had a good chance at other scholarships so I really focused on kids that were not at the top of their class, for whom this scholarship could make a difference in determining if they would get to go to college or not,” he said. “Through my brother’s memory, I aimed to give kids like that a chance to go wherever they wanted, to make a difference in getting them started that first year. I pulled for the underdog and tried to help them along in anyway that I could.”

That help did not go unappreciated.

“I didn’t really know how special it was until I was a few years removed,” Jordan said. “To have someone invest their resources in you was truly special. It was encouraging to know someone believed in you.”

The 1992 recipient, Amanda Florian Callinan, added: “I’ve always appreciated being selected for the scholarship, and on a trip to D.C. in 2000, I stopped by the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial and found his name on the wall.”

“The scholarship helped me so much, and I cannot express sufficient gratitude to the family,” said Timmie Boyce, who received the scholarship in 2008.

Although it was often a difficult decision, they are comforted by knowing the recipients not only needed and appreciated the help, but honored Pat’s memory.

“When I think of Pat it brings a smile to my face,” Mike said. “I always have the thought of what might have been if he were still here, but unfortunately, it’s just something that didn’t happen. But we can be thankful for what the outcome was as far as the scholarship being able to help so many people.

“Those 73 recipients are a nice legacy that you can say about this scholarship and all the good it did and will do through them,” he continued. “It was a tragedy … yet from that tragedy there’s been a lot of good things that have happened in enabling a lot of individuals to better themselves and help them along. Knowing that because of my brother kids were able to pursue their goals, that eased the pain and filled the void.”

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Here are the 73 recipients of the Pat Scott Memorial Scholarship and an update on their successes, as provided.

1970 – Mark Jordan, general manager at Wise County Messenger

1971 – Claud Porter Elsom III, Texas Department of Transportation in Denton

1972 – Brent Goodger

1973 – Larry Coates

1974 – Phyllis Whitaker; Barry Wayne Matney

1975 – Carol Ann Prescott, teacher in Mansfield ISD for 30 years and Arlington ISD for two years; Lynn Oates

1976 – Leisa Murphree Gage, purchasing; Curtis Shults

1977 – Cathy Buckner; Michael Waldon

1978 – Karen McClure; James Steven Gardner

1979 – Karen Wilde; Allen Raymond Bussell

1980 – Richard Ballou; David King

1981 – Lawrence Michael Lloyd; Chad Short

1982 – Vickie Moore; Norman Vaughan Jr.

1983 – Kurrie Rene Chapman; Karen Sue Pannell

1984 – Charles Russell Ford, salesman at James Wood Motors; Francis Marie Carpenter

1985 – Mary Pennartz

1986 – Olin Curtis Blase Jr.

1987 – Melissa Lee Moore; Johnnie Chris Cain

1988 – Mitzi Merritt Hinson, pre-k teacher in Decatur ISD for nine years; Michael Miller

1989 – Casey Carter

1990 – Bryan Hale

1991 – Sonia Rendleman

1992 – Amanda Florian Callinan, earned a BA from Baylor University and master’s from Northern Arizona University, research analyst in Austin; Cindy Kemp

1993 – Maria Varela Martinez, medical receptionist

1994 – Jennifer D. Anderson;

1995 – Valerie Marie Wilde; Bradley Allen Dodd

1996 – Kim Carlton Farrow, graduated from UNT, kindergarten teacher in Northwest ISD, currently pursuing master’s in educational leadership from Lamar University; Rebecca Ann Broman

1997 – James Randolph, Viviana Mangual

1998 – Veronica DeLeon Mares, earned a BS in business computer information systems from UNT, principal quality assurance engineer at Oracle in Frisco for eight years; Ken Harrison

1999 – Leddy Foster, sales manager at Alliance Materials in Keller; Donato Lopez

2000 – Sarah Lawson Durham, earned a BA in literature from UNT in 2004, taught English for five years and earned a master’s from UT-Tyler in 2011, plans to return to work as an assistant principal this school year after staying home with her young children; Brian Guthrie

2001 – Stephanie Lee Avance, earned a BS in computer science in 2005 and worked as a software engineer for L-3 Integrated Systems, then taught Algebra I in Garland ISD for five years and earned a master’s in the integration of math and science education from Texas Tech University before beginning a “new career” as a stay-at-home mom ; Jessica Higgin

2002 – Chris Abbs, double majored in English and education at Texas Tech University; earned master’s in education from the University of Texas-Arlington, pursuing doctorate of education at Southern Methodist University, is a senior-level English teacher at Richardson High School; Megan Holt Cardenas, speech therapist; Lauren Logue

2003 – Rosana Avi a, earned a BA in theatre arts with a focus on set design from UNT; slated to graduate with a master’s in interior architecture from Philadelphia University next May; Brennan Williams, works for Legend Bank in Decatur

2004 – Carol Beck; Ashley Bowles

2005 – Samantha Boyce, graduated from the University of North Texas, finished second year of teaching eighth grade science in Bowie ISD; Rachael Guia, graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, communications specialist at American Bureau of Shipping

2006 – Courtney Partridge Molinar, RN at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth; Erika Pedroza, reporter for the Wise County Messenger

2007 – Preston Hamilton, earned a degree in finance from Abilene Christian University, is the regional sales manager for Digital Filing Solutions

2008 – Timmie Boyce, graduated from the UT-Austin in May and will begin physical therapy school in May 2014, is a part-time PT tech

2009 – Katie Stapleton McGilvray, to earn BS in nursing from Midwestern State University in December

2010 – Matthew P. Britt, student at the UNT, ran for District 61 state representative last fall

2011 – Katie Brown, student at Texas A&M

2012 – none

2013 – Paris Walther, to study ag communications at Tarleton State University; Jasmine Walia, to attend Texas A&M

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