Free money. For most people, that is what you call an oxymoron. For graduating high school seniors, free money in the form of college scholarships represents an amazing opportunity to begin higher education.
The Wixson scholarship is one of the most generous in Douglas County and is available to graduates from South County high schools. Annually, the Umpqua Youth Board, which administers the Wixson scholarship, gives away an average of $60,000, depending on market fluctuations.
The amounts vary per applicant, but usually range from $500 to $3,000. To qualify for a scholarship, one has to graduate from South Umpqua, Riddle, Days Creek or Glendale high school or Canyonville Christian Academy, complete the application form by the due date and attend a college or trade school in Oregon.
The applications are considered on the basis of criteria including ambition, need and community involvement. Rarely does an applicant fail to get at least some scholarship funds.
The history behind this scholarship is quite interesting and exemplifies both hard work and reward.
The Wixsons moved to Myrtle Creek from New York at the turn of the 20th century. Three of the five Wixson children went on to become schoolteachers.
They purchased an 800-acre ranch out North Myrtle Road. The Wixsons wanted the property eventually to be used to help abused and troubled youth. Different attempts to fulfill this goal came up short.
With one remaining family member surviving, and none of the five children having married, local resident Del Blanchard suggested to Desdemona Wixson that a nonprofit corporation be formed to administer the operation of the ranch. Miss Wixson stipulated that the board members include a minister, lawyer, rancher, banker and business owner.
Her will, which came into effect upon her death in 1973, stated that if the timber-loaded ranch were not operational for a period of five years, U.S. Bank would take over and liquidate it. The proceeds were to be added to a scholarship fund.
In 1995, all but 80 acres was sold for slightly more than $1 million and invested. The scholarship carries on to this day from the interest of this initial investment (about 4 percent each year is designated for scholarships).
Whoever would have thought that five grown children, three of whom were schoolteachers, could leave such a legacy for thousands of South County high school graduates?
As of this writing, scholarship applications are available at the above-designated high schools. Applications are due Monday. Either before or during the graduations for each school, representatives from the Umpqua Youth Board will be present to give out the Wixon scholarships.
This visionary family has left South Douglas County graduates an amazing opportunity to help attend an Oregon college or trade school. With the dedicated volunteers who administer the fund, this legacy may go on indefinitely to help local young people reach their career goals.
Dan Jocoy serves with the Tri City Church of Christ and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.