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Northwestern Bank Steps Up With Marching Band Scholarships for UW-Eau Claire Students

RELEASED: Nov. 16, 2005

Blugold Marching Band
Blugold Marching Band performed during the Homecoming halftime show. Photo by Rick Mickelson, LTS

EAU CLAIRE — A $25,000 endowed scholarship fund for the Blugold Marching Band has been established with the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Foundation by Northwestern Bank in Chippewa Falls.

The endowment will generate $1,000 annually for scholarships to UW-Eau Claire marching band students.

The scholarships will be awarded to students who are active in the UW-Eau Claire Blugold Marching Band and enrolled for the next academic year. Applicants also must be involved in working with high school or middle school band programs in the Chippewa Valley.

The scholarships are the result of the October bus crash involving the Chippewa Falls High School Marching Band and UW-Eau Claire marching band students and alumni.

Five people were killed in the crash, including the high school's marching band director and UW-Eau Claire alumnus Douglas Greenhalgh; his wife Therese Greenhalgh and granddaughter Morgan Greenhalgh; the bus driver, Paul Rasmus; and UW-Eau Claire music education student Branden Atherton. Several other people were injured including UW-Eau Claire students and the children of former or current Northwestern Bank employees.

Jerry Jacobson, president of Northwestern Bank, said the Northwestern Bank Band Scholarships honor the memory of those lost and the commitment to marching band by all those who were on the bus.

"Our scholarships recognize UW-Eau Claire students who are committed to the Blugold Marching Band and who also reach out as volunteers and staff members to support and encourage high school and middle school marching band programs to reach their greatest potential," said Jacobson, a lifelong resident of Chippewa Falls and a graduate of Chippewa Falls High School and UW-Eau Claire.

On behalf of the Northwestern Bank board of directors, Jacobson, who is a new member of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation board and a recent recipient of the university's Lifetime Achievement Award, worked with Heidi Fisher, director of annual giving and major gifts officer for the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, to set up the endowed scholarships.

"Jerry has a giving heart and is very thoughtful about putting money where it's needed," Fisher said. "He takes action to make a philanthropic difference, personally and on behalf of the bank."

A first generation college graduate, Jacobson believes it's important for businesses and individuals to give back to ensure a college education isn't limited only to those who can afford it. "My wife and I feel if I didn't have a college education, we couldn't have the lifestyle we enjoy today," Jacobson said. "We want to make sure that kind of opportunity is still available."

The scholarships recognize the UW-Eau Claire student contributions that aren't generally known, said Robert Knight, chair of the music and theatre arts department at UW-Eau Claire.

"With the resurgence of the Blugold Marching Band in the last few years, many area high school marching bands use members of the BMB to work with their bands," Knight said. "From feedback that I've gotten, these students are very appreciated by the programs that use them."

Blugold Marching Band Director Randy Dickerson will chair the scholarship selection committee, which will consist of music faculty members and others. A $500 award will be made annually to one student. The remaining $500 will be awarded to one to three recipients with a minimum scholarship award of $150 per student.

"These scholarships give a new legitimacy to our marching band program as it grows," said Dickerson, who joined the faculty in 2000 and has grown the band from 60 to 171 students. "They are a wonderful acknowledgment from the community for our program and our students' work with band programs throughout the Chippewa Valley."

Branden Atherton, who was student teaching at Chippewa Falls High School at the time of the accident, would have been a perfect candidate for the scholarship, Dickerson said.

"He was exactly the kind of person these scholarships are for, as are the other six band students who were on the bus," Dickerson said. "Branden was one of the first students to get involved in the building and leadership aspects of the BMB after I arrived. He was a drum major for two years and a real leader in our program. He and the other BMB students were on that bus because they loved marching band, had fun with it and wanted to share in others' joy."

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JW/JB

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