Several Herscher High School seniors were honored last week during the school’s annual Senior Honors Night ceremony. That recognition comes in the form of well over $120,000.

And if they walk away with nothing else, I hope they are somehow humbled by the gifts they are receiving from complete strangers.

Strangers like…Dr. L.G. and Winifred Wisner. Since Mrs. Wisner’s death in 1977, this couple has continued to touch the lives of many Herscher students.

Dr. Wisner operated a medical practice in Herscher for some 40 years. Today’s graduates represent grandchildren, great-grandchildren and even great-great-grandchildren of people Dr. Wisner helped bring into this world. The Wisner fund has provided about $300,000 to HHS seniors over the years. This year, Dr. and Mrs.Wisner distributed $10,000 to 18 HHS graduates…students they never knew.

Strangers like…friends of the late Rich Jensen and Tim Orwig. These two young men died shortly after their graduations. But every year, their memory is rekindled in the form of scholarships presented – on their behalf – to graduates who reflect Tim’s pride and Rich’s determination.

Strangers like…the late Eileen VanVoorst. Every spring, her son, Hugh, remembers her with a memorial gift to a Herscher High School graduate.

Strangers like…Caitlyn Poppie, who would have been a member of the HHS Class of 2003 had her life not been cut short by a tragic automobile crash. Her memory lives on in the form of seat belt advisories still issued to students, as well as a scholarship which was awarded this month for an eleventh year.

Strangers like…the late Otto A. and Lucille Wagner Fritz. They left behind a scholarship fund which this year provided a $1,000 scholarship, renewable for up to four years, plus four $500 scholarships. A generous gift, considering that it comes from a complete stranger.

Strangers like…dearly departed Herscher teachers who are remembered with annual scholarships provided by the Unit 2 Classroom Teachers. This year, five $1,000 scholarships were awarded.

Strangers like…an anonymous Herscher High School supporter who gives not one, but four $1,000 gifts to recipients who demonstrate a positive attitude and athletic excellence.

Strangers like…the late Christopher Sims. A student has been awarded an annual scholarship in his memory for an twelfth consecutive year.

Strangers like… the late Stephen Jensen. A gift in his memory is being awarded to a student who will pursue a career in agriculture.

A generous scholarship to Kankakee Community College is being provided on behalf of a former student, Ian Bogusch, who lost his life while en route to school in October of 2008.

For the fifth year, the FFA Presidential Scholarship is awarded in memory of Richard W. Cotter, first president of the Herscher FFA chapter.

For the fourth year, a scholarship is being given in memory of Jason Cox. Four $500 scholarships were also presented in memory of Randy Lehnus.

A student who excelled in both music and athletics is receiving a gift in memory of longtime Herscher faculty member and school supporter Marlow Zehr.

Alumnus Kent Weakly generously gives an art scholarship each year. Dr. Jeff and Diane Long provide a scholarship to a medical/science student. Two agriculture students are honored in memory of Tom Fritz.

Another scholarship is given in honor of longtime HHS secretary Thelma Webber and her husband, Bob. Scholarships are also given by the Bonfield Lions Club, HHS Alumni, and several area businesses and organizations.

The Herscher Foundation and nine individuals and businesses provide 18 senior of the month scholarships.

Each scholarship is presented in accordance with the wishes of those who make it possible. 

In many cases, the selection is placed in the hands of the school’s scholarship committee. In some cases, family members are involved in the selection.

In each case, the scholarship is intended to help a young person pursue a dream. And each recipient shares a certain niche with his or her scholarship’s namesake.

In many cases, the scholarship is intended to help reflect the ideals of someone who is now departed.

In each case, the scholarship is intended to keep a torch burning.

For more information on establishing a scholarship fund, contact Darthy Bisaillon in the high school guidance office.

Some gifts are small. Some are rather substantial. All will be used to make this world a better place.

Again this spring, so much generosity comes from so many strangers.