When Richard Berkowitz served on Staples Tuition Grants’ board in the late 1970s, only a few small grants were awarded to graduating seniors. Board members quietly solicited donations from friends and neighbors.
In the early to mid-1980s — when Dick Fincher served on the STG board — a $1,000 grant was considered great.
Fincher recalls, “This was a period of very high unemployment. Interest rates got up to about 20%, for a short time. It was surprising then, as it probably is now, who in Westport had a financial need in terms of paying college expenses.”
Berkowitz and Fincher’s rewarding experiences serving on the STG board — helping students earn a college education — was noticed by their children.
“That sense of community drew me to the program. I’m following my dad’s lead,” says Dick’s son, Doug Fincher. He — along with Berkowitz’s daughter, Jody Beck — are now STG board members.
When Doug graduated from Staples in 1982, friends received grants. Some still live in town today.
Families he knew as a student continue to support STG’s named awards. There are nearly 100 of them, established by individuals, companies and civic groups.
The 2 newest named awards honor Ken Brummel and Westport Temple Lodge #65.
The Brummel award — donated by his daughter Lisa — celebrates a longtime educator. In 1964 — at just 28 years old — Ken Brummel was named principal of Bedford Junior High School. He later served 12 years as Westport’s superintendent of schools. He was widely admired as an innovator, and a strong supporter of teachers. He died a year ago, at 77.
The Temple Lodge has served the town since 1824. Freemasonry is the oldest fraternal organization in the world, with members dedicated to caring for those less fortunate and giving back to their community.
Staples Tuition Grants is not as old as the Temple Lodge — but few organizations are. STG was established in 1943 with a $100 gift from the Staples PTA. Last year it awarded $317,000 in grants to 122 students — graduating seniors, and alumni already in college — thanks to gifts from over 500 individuals, PTAs, civic organizations, local businesses, trusts and private foundations.
(To make a tax-deductible donation, or for more information, click here; email email@example.com, or write STG, Box 5159, Westport, CT 06881-5159.)