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College scholarship for Ray students at once honors family achievements, creates legacy

To the Editor:

As a college financial aid administrator I have conducted many financial aid programs for students and parents and have watched as Federal regulations have come and gone; however, the one thing that has been constant in nearly 35 years of working with students is that they continue to need doors opened to higher education – “financially speaking” especially.
In 1998 I had an epiphany as I returned home from a local high school scholarship event.  I realized that I was in the driver’s seat to create a legacy of my life’s work that would enable students in pursuit of a college education.  I immediately set about to fund an endowed scholarship that would memorialize my grandmother’s work as a teacher.
Grandma Woods had been an educator after having graduated in her fifties from Missouri Teachers College, now UCM, and having commenced her teaching experience in a one-room Ray County schoolhouse.  I still remember the morning that she permitted my twin sister and me to accompany her to this one-room school as we were not yet of school age.  Twins were rare in those days and we became “show and tell” for the day.  What a memory!
This inspiration for building a legacy unfolded with the establishment of the Thelma Marie Woods Memorial Scholarship at William Jewell this year although a student had yet to benefit yet because of the very restrictive selection criteria.
In recent days I was inspired to revise this legacy in large part due to the recent death of my father, Frank R. Stonner, Jr., and another in anticipation of my nearing retirement from William Jewell.  I realized that the best way to lift up my father’s life of service would be to rename the scholarship to reflect the family name and to expand the selection criteria to consider Jewell-bound students who are also Ray County residents.
The former Thelma Marie Woods Memorial Scholarship, originally limited to Orrick students, will now be known as the Ray County “Helping Hand” Student Scholarship by Susan (Sue) J. (Stonner) Karnes and Family.  In accordance with college policies and procedures, the financial aid committee will make its selections based upon demonstrated financial need as a specific criterion.
My father’s passing has reminded me that life is too short and that there is not any better time than the present to extend a helping hand to others.  This makes building a legacy so important yet equally so very humbling.
Winston Churchill’s popularized quote underscores this sentiment best: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” It is my hope for this legacy to open doors for Ray County students both now and for future generations because higher education really is a difference-maker.

– Susan (Sue) Karnes

(Sue Karnes is the Director of Financial Aid and Scholarship Services at William Jewell College in Liberty.)

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