Named Scholarships

  • For information about creating a named scholarship in honor or memory of a loved one, please contact Jackie Martell.

    Dr. Robert VanderRoest believed every student should have the chance to go to college to prepare for life. The lifelong Kalamazoo-area resident was grateful for the educational assistance he received following his service in the U.S. Army during World War II. The GI Bill and a part-time job enabled him to graduate from the University of Michigan Dental School in 1954.

    “I’ve always felt that the community gave me the finances to go to college. Now I’d like to give back to the community,” said Dr. VanderRoest in 1999, when he and his wife, the late Ruth Ann Zwart VanderRoest, established an endowed scholarship through the Kalamazoo RESA Foundation. Dr. VanderRoest was a longtime member and president of the Portage Board of Education, the Kalamazoo RESA Board of Education and the Kalamazoo RESA Foundation Board of Trustees. In addition, he was active in his church, Rotary Club International and served on the boards of other area organizations. The VanderRoests also promoted increased opportunities for the developmentally disabled on a state and national level through their long association with The Arc.

    Kalamazoo RESA and the community lost an exemplary leader when Dr. VanderRoest passed away in December 2007.

    “Strive to be the very best you can be,” were words by which Gary Rice lived. This Kalamazoo-area native was a wonderful husband, father, grandfather and friend. A graduate of Loy Norrix High School, Mr. Rice became a professional printer and raised two daughters with his wife, Denise, a teacher at Gull Lake Middle School.

    Mr. Rice knew that education is essential in allowing young people to realize their goals. He put his beliefs into action as treasurer of the Kalamazoo Area Craftsman’s Club, raising funds to support the club’s annual scholarship program. After his death in 2005, the Rice family and their friends honored his legacy by establishing an endowed scholarship through the Kalamazoo RESA Foundation. Reflecting on how Gary Rice lived his life, Denise Rice and her daughters offer the following advice to the scholarship recipient: “Take time to get to know people. Don’t be afraid to be creative. And, finally, just relax.”

    Retired Kalamazoo RESA Superintendent Larry E. Wile’s 39-year career is a testament to a progressive vision of public education that strives to help all students realize the best of their personal abilities. This West Michigan native received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Western Michigan University, then settled in the Kalamazoo area where he and wife, Rose, raised four children.

    He began his career as a teacher and principal in Climax-Scotts Community Schools and served as assistant superintendent of Comstock Public Schools. Mr. Wile joined Kalamazoo RESA in 1972, serving as the assistant superintendent, deputy superintendent and superintendent. Under his leadership as superintendent, from 1990 to 2000, Kalamazoo RESA initiated the Education for the Arts program and early childhood education programs and expanded the scope of the Education for Employment program. Over the years, the Wiles have been equally committed to the Kalamazoo community. Mrs. Wile, a retired nursery school teacher, has been a dedicated volunteer in her community and is involved in their church’s Ministry-In-Community activities. Mr. Wile currently serves as a member of the Kalamazoo RESA Foundation Board of Trustees.

    Upon establishing endowed scholarships through the Kalamazoo RESA Foundation in 2000, Mr. Wile said, “We both believe in the value of education and the need to assist others. It’s our desire that these scholarships will plant the seed for educational opportunities to grow with each participant. We hope, when these recipients are successful, they will reach out to help others.”

    Gayl F. Werme was a leader whose extraordinary energy, intelligence and commitment to family, faith and community had an indelible, positive impact on Southwest Michigan. She was a great believer in the adage, “To whom much is given, much will be required.” She was a dynamic leader in the community, from the county road commission to the League of Women Voters. She served on multiple boards, including Bronson Methodist Hospital, the Kalamazoo Symphony Society and Western Michigan University. She was the first chairman of the board for the Gilmore Keyboard Festival. She was campaign manager for state representative and, later, state senator, Paul Wartner.

    A graduate of Mt. Holyoke College, her passion for education was manifest in 36 years of service to area schools. She was a member, and later president, of both the Portage Board of Education and the Kalamazoo RESA Board of Education. Recognizing the fact that the future is defined in today’s classrooms, she said, “Education is of paramount importance to each individual and to our community and nation.” Her husband, Don Werme, noted, “She did all of these activities while raising three children and managing a busy household.” She was the organist at her church for more than 30 years and an advocate for cancer patients through her work with the Southwest Michigan affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. This cause was special to Gayl Werme, who fought a 20-year battle against the disease that took her life in 2002.

    In 2003, to honor her memory, endowed scholarships were established in her name by Bronson Methodist Hospital, the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation and family and friends, through the Kalamazoo RESA Foundation. In 2016, an additional memorial gift was made to honor Gayl - the EFA Director Scholarship.

    “My hope for the recipients of this scholarship is that the success that they have found in their occupational studies will continue throughout their professional careers,” said Irv Cumming, former assistant superintendent for general and vocational education at Kalamazoo RESA. Mr. Cumming was raised in Muskegon and married Alberta Burger in 1962, before he started his service in the U.S. Army. The couple later relocated to Kalamazoo, where he pursued his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Western Michigan University. He also completed a certificate in Leadership and Development for the Administration of Vocational and Technical Education at the University of Michigan. They raised two children in Kalamazoo, where Mrs. Cumming worked as an administrative assistant at WMU. Mr. Cumming started his career as a teacher, then headed up the business education department in Portage Public Schools and later became the director of career and vocational education for Comstock Public Schools. The Education for Employment program — a consortium of the nine Kalamazoo County public school districts and Kalamazoo Valley Community College — was developed during his tenure at Kalamazoo RESA. His professional commendations include the Michigan Council of Vocational Administrators’ Ralph Wenrich Award, the state’s highest honor for his profession.

    Both Mr. and Mrs. Cumming retired in 2000. He has been active in the community as past president of the Kalamazoo Westside Lions Club and as a member of the Kalamazoo American Business Club. In 2002, the couple established an endowed scholarship through the Kalamazoo RESA Foundation to promote continuing education for graduates of occupational education programs.

    Achieving excellence in the field of education is a family tradition for former Kalamazoo RESA superintendent W. Craig Misner, Ed.D., who followed in the footsteps of his father, educator Paul J. Misner, Ph.D. The onetime Bronco pitcher and Glencoe, Illinois native received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Western Michigan University. In 1976, he married fellow educator Diane Atkins, who went on to become an elementary school principal and consultant. Today, two of the couple’s three children also are educators.

    Dr. Misner was a teacher and administrator in the Kalamazoo Public Schools prior to serving as superintendent of the Hopkins and Parchment school districts. He was named superintendent of Kalamazoo RESA in 2000. His tenure was marked by significant development, including the passage of two major millage issues and the growth of the instructional and technology services divisions. Before retiring in 2008, Dr. Misner added the title of Michigan Association of School Administrators Region VII Superintendent of the Year to his many accolades. His numerous community commitments include leadership roles with the Kalamazoo Nature Center and Junior Achievement of Southwest Michigan. He also is an adjunct professor in the WMU School of Education.

    Dr. and Mrs. Misner established an endowed scholarship through the Kalamazoo RESA Foundation as a tribute to their passion for learning.

    After graduating from Kalamazoo Central in 1971, Mr. Everett attended a trade school in St. Louis, MO as well as earned multiple certifications from Kalamazoo Valley Community College. It was his passion for the trades and continuing education that led to a successful 33-year career as a machine repairman at General Motors before his retirement. Mr. Everett voluntarily built games and playground structures for Comstock Public Schools and his legacy will continue to build outstanding young men and women in our community.

    The Everett Family and the Josh Whitfield Memorial Athletic Fund established this endowed scholarship through the Kalamazoo RESA Foundation to support graduating students pursuing a career in skilled trades.

    A genuine passion for the pursuit of “what’s best for the kids” defined the outstanding career of Paul S. Wollam. The Nebraska native married Elizabeth “Betts” Ann Steffee in 1944. Mr. Wollam earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Michigan State University before the couple settled in the Kalamazoo area, where they raised three children. Betts Wollam, who passed away in 1990, was a devoted wife, mother and volunteer who served as president of the Borgess Service League of Borgess Medical Center. She also was an active member of the Kalamazoo Community Chorale, the Kalamazoo Symphony Society and Chapel Hill United Methodist Church.

    Mr. Wollam served as superintendent in Comstock, Cassopolis and Springport public schools. In 1972, he accepted the top post at the Kalamazoo Valley Intermediate School District, now Kalamazoo RESA, and led the organization through a period of what has been described as “explosive” growth. During his 18 years of service, Mr. Wollam fostered an atmosphere of cooperation between the county’s nine school districts and other regional educational and governmental entities. In memory of the Wollams’ unique contributions — and that of their daughter, Stephanie Jo Harris, a longtime Kalamazoo RESA colleague — family and friends established an endowed scholarship through the Kalamazoo RESA Foundation.

    Wisconsin-born, Chicago-bred Robert C. “Bob” Thompson first came to the Kalamazoo area to attend Western Michigan University, where he received his bachelor’s degree. Then he started working for Borgess Medical Center, made Kalamazoo his home and raised four children with his wife, Diane. He later went to work for Pharmacia & Upjohn Inc. as a human resources specialist charged with hiring and training engineers.

    It was through this association that he became involved in Kalamazoo RESA’s Education for Employment program. He believed in giving back to the community, and also recognized the value of vocational education. If students had work experience prior to college, he knew that they would be more likely to make good career choices. He was vice chairman of the EFE Advisory Committee and provided tours and internships for students at the former Pharmacia & Upjohn, now Pfizer Inc. Mr. Thompson also volunteered with the Explorer Scout program and the American Red Cross. Following his death at the age of 50 in 2002, the Thompson family established an endowed scholarship through the Kalamazoo RESA Foundation as a “living and giving memorial to who he was.”

    As a former welder, machinist, aircraft and auto mechanic, business teacher and school administrator, Tom Conor was a true believer in career and technical education and Education for Employment (EFE). He knew that, for many students, the workplace is the best classroom and experience is the best teacher. Born in Allegan, Mr. Conor received his associate degree from Kalamazoo Valley Community College and his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Western Michigan University. He served in the U.S. Air Force in Vietnam before returning to West Michigan to marry Marsha Siebert, now retired from the former Upjohn company. The couple raised three children in Augusta.

    Mr. Conor, the former executive director of Kalamazoo RESA’s Education for Employment program, focused much of his administrative career on developing partnerships between education and business. The Bronson Methodist Hospital and Borgess Medical Center partnership that developed under his guidance was recognized as a model program across the state and the nation. He was also instrumental in creating the first EFE scholarship presentation as part of the EFE awards program.

    Mr. Conor retired from Kalamazoo RESA in 2007 and was active in community organizations, including Rotary Club International, Lions Club, the Galesburg-Augusta Schools Foundation and Disabled American Veterans until his death in 2009. He established an endowed scholarship through the Kalamazoo RESA Foundation because, he said, “Education is the tool that each of us uses to become successful.” He advised recipients to “work hard in school and get as much hands-on experience as you can in the workplace.”


    As first-generation college graduates, W. Jack and Dr. Nanette M. Keiser, Ed.D., know the importance of receiving a helping hand in the pursuit of educational goals. As a way of giving back, they established an endowed scholarship through the Kalamazoo RESA Foundation in 2001. The Keisers share a devotion to Jack’s three children, their grandchildren, and their communities. Jack Keiser, a retired Miller Johnson attorney, was a past president of the Parchment school board, the Kalamazoo RESA Board of Education, the Kalamazoo RESA Foundation, the Kalamazoo County Bar Association, the Legal Aid Bureau of Southwest Michigan, and the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy. Nanette Keiser, retired Berrien Community Foundation president, served on the Literacy Network of Kalamazoo County board, as a past YWCA of Kalamazoo board president, and a former chair of Cornerstone Alliance’s Women’s Business Center board. She was also a St. Joseph-Benton Harbor Rotary Club president, Southwestern Michigan Estate Planning Council treasurer, and Western Michigan University Alumni Association board member. Jack and Nanette volunteer as tutors at King-Westwood School and Edison through the Communities in Schools program. Jack volunteers with the Legal Outreach Clinic through the Kalamazoo County Bar Association. 

    A 1942 graduate of State High school in Kalamazoo, Walt enlisted in the Army Air Corp Aviation Cadet Program at 17-years-old. He joined the 48th Army Air Force Fighter Bomber Group in 1943, and was an honor graduate of the Air War College. Walt provided close ground-air support for the Normandy Invasion in his P-47 named "Gal from Kalamazoo." He went on to complete 72 combat missions over France, Belgium, Holland and Germany prior to the end of World War II. In 1948 Walt participated in the Berlin Airlift. He went on to fly combat missions after WWII in Korea and Vietnam, flying airplanes that included his favorites: P-47 Thunderbolt, P-51 Mustang, F-4 Phantom, F-86 and the F-100 Super Sabre.

    While in Vietnam, Walt was in operational control at Nakhon Phanom, Thailand, where he formed the Steel Tiger Task Force, which later grew into Task Force Alpha and was primarily charged with Special Operations infiltration and surveillance. Col. Forbes went on to manage wing operations for the Seventh Air Force. He led the first interdiction against the North Vietnam army along the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos, and flew 67 combat missions in Vietnam. In his final Air Force position, he served on the Air Staff at the Pentagon, working for United States Deputy Secretary of Defense Cyrus Vance and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, before retiring in 1969 and moving back to Kalamazoo. 

    During his career, Col. Forbes was awarded the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, the Air Medal (with 15 Oak Leaf Clusters), the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service medal and numerous other medals for valor and service. Over his career he logged 5,100 hours of combat flying time and 9,300 hours of civilian flying time. In 2009, Col. Forbes was inducted into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame at the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo, where he served as a docent from 2004-2009. In memory of his unique contributions in aviation, family and friends established an endowed scholarship through the Kalamazoo RESA Foundation.

    Since 1990, this scholarship fund has been a quiet benefactor for many bright and deserving Kalamazoo area students.

    Eaton Corporation is a diversified power management company and a global technology leader in electrical components and systems for power quality, distribution and control; hydraulics components, systems and services for industrial and mobile equipment; aerospace fuel, hydraulic and pneumatic systems for commercial and military use; and truck and automotive drivetrain and powertrain systems for performance, fuel economy and safety. This scholarship honors the Education for Employment program’s long and productive working relationship with professionals from Eaton’s offices in Galesburg.

    Home builders, remodelers and professionals from related fields, such as mortgage finance and building products and services, make up the membership of this Kalamazoo affiliate of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Founded in 1942, the NAHB is a Washington, D.C.-based trade association whose mission is to enhance the climate for the housing and building industry. Chief among the NAHB’s goals is providing and expanding opportunities for all consumers to have safe, decent and affordable housing. As “the voice of America’s housing industry,” NAHB helps to promote policies that help to keep housing a national priority.

    The Home Builders Association of Western Michigan provides information, advocacy, education and networking opportunities to it’s members. It also sponsors such local events as the Home Expo and the Parade of Homes. Members are active partners in Kalamazoo RESA’s Education for Employment construction trades program. In 2008, the Home Builders Association generously donated a scholarship for EFE construction trades students.

    Headquartered in Kalamazoo, Fabri-Kal is one of the largest thermoformers in North America, serving the food service and consumer goods packaging markets. The company has hundreds of employees working in three locations across the nation. In 2005, Fabri-Kal established an endowed scholarship through the Kalamazoo RESA Foundation for graduating seniors in the Kalamazoo RESA Education for Employment (E.F.E.) program who are interested in pursuing careers in manufacturing, business or engineering.

    Guided by the leadership of its Board of Education, the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency provides innovative and responsive services to educators and learners through leadership, collaboration and support. As one of 56 intermediate school districts in Michigan, Kalamazoo RESA serves 34,000 students and their families in and around Kalamazoo County. 

    Founded in 1909 in Kalamazoo, the Miller-Davis Company provides general contracting, construction management, design/build and construction consulting services. The company’s principles include honesty, knowledge, commitment and loyalty, a long-term perspective and always endeavoring to treat others as one would expect to be treated oneself.

    In 2001, the Miller-Davis Foundation was established as a Michigan nonprofit corporation to offer financial assistance to persons and organizations primarily in the southwestern Michigan area, with a general focus on education, the arts and the environment. The Miller-Davis Scholarship was established in support of Kalamazoo RESA’s mission of providing innovative and responsive educational services and to help students further their education and realize their potential.

    TeleCity was a pioneer in virtual community networks. Founded through a United States Telecommunications Infrastructure grant, its mission was to stimulate metropolitan and economic growth while enhancing the productivity and quality of life for area citizens. This was accomplished by electronically linking residents to one another, as well as others remote from the area with various information and educational resources throughout the world.

    TeleCity was instrumental in the establishment of the Education for Employment computer technology class that provides for the reconditioning of used equipment distributed to Kalamazoo County neighborhood centers, United Way agencies, nonprofit agencies and schools. The TeleCity Information Highway endowed scholarship was established through the Kalamazoo RESA Foundation in 2001.