Tag Archives: Staples Tuition Grants

Unsung Hero #53

Last week, Staples Tuition Grants handed out over $300,000 in scholarships to more than 100 graduating seniors, and high school alums already in college.

It was a warm, wonderful evening — a celebration of very hard work by the recipients, as well as all who make the grants possible.

But the highlight may have been the keynote speech, by Dr. Albert Beasley.

Speaking without notes — and without missing a beat — the 90-plus-year-old retired pediatrician talked about the importance of STG, and what it means to him personally. One of the oldest named awards — initiated 45 years ago — honors his late wife and fellow pediatrician, Dr. Jean Beasley.

After the Staples Tuition Grants ceremony, pediatrician Dr. Albert Beasley and his wife Janet (3rd and 4th from left) posed with 4 former patients (from left): Nicole Greenberg Donovan, Dan Woog, Dan Donovan and Lynn Untermeyer Miller. (Photo/Paddy Donovan)

In his 65 years in Westport, Al Beasley has watched the town grow from a small artists’ colony, through the baby boom, into a suburb filled with businessmen and Wall Street executives.

But he has seen it all through a unique perspective, and with a background different from most people who live here. He shared some of that last week too, in his low-key but inspiring way.

Al’s grandfather, a Harvard-educated Boston attorney, helped found the NAACP.  Al’s father also went to Harvard – and became a doctor.  His mother graduated from Radcliffe. Those were proud accomplishments, in an era when educational opportunities for black men and women were limited.

Al’s parents wanted him to have a well-rounded education. He got one, at the Walden School and Columbia  College. He married a high school friend, Jean.  Both earned medical degrees – Al from New York University. Both became pediatricians.

As a captain in the Air Force during the Korean War – based in Houston — Al first experienced overt prejudice. But he persevered, and in 1953 the Beasleys moved to Westport. He wanted his children to experience the same freedom he’d found at the Walden School. The Beasleys rented a home on 11 acres, for $90 a month. They were one of only 5 or so black families in town.

They bought land from a fellow physician, Mal Beinfield. The Beasleys had trouble getting a mortgage – the banks’ excuse was “they did not like contemporary dwellings.” But Westport Bank & Trust Company president Einar Anderson said to the Beasleys’ request for $20,000: “There’s no problem.  Let us know when you want it.”

Four years ago at the Staples Tuition Grants ceremony, Dr. Al Beasley posed with Megumi Asada, a graduating senior who received the Dr. Jean Beasley Memorial Award. Megumi was considering a career in medicine.

In addition to his professional accomplishments – private practice as a pediatrician; co-founder of Willows Pediatrics; associate clinical professor of pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine, and an emeritus staff member at Norwalk Hospital – Al immersed himself in community work.

He was a pediatrician for the Intercommunity Camp; a member of the Selectman’s Committee for Youth and Human Services; a board of directors member for the United Way; member of the scholar selection committee of A Better Chance of Westport; trustee of Earthplace, where he organized the Green Earth series on  health and the environment.

Al’s wife Jean died in 1973.  Six years later he married Janet, a native of Berlin and a survivor of a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia.

Al says:  “When Jean and I moved to Westport in 1953, it was a magical town. It opened its arms to us, welcomed us, and made us feel special.”

Al adds:  “My birth certificate said ‘colored.’  Then the preferred term changed to ‘Negro.’  Later it was ‘black,’ then ‘African American.’  I am a man of color, but I like to be accepted for what I have to offer.  The town has done exactly that.”

Looking back on his career, Al says,“I’m an activist.  I tried to give my utmost to the community, and I think the community appreciates that.  This is a wonderful town.  I thank everyone who entrusted their most precious commodities – their infants, their children and their young people – to me.”

And we thank Dr. Al Beasley, this week’s Unsung — but Very Deserving — Longtime Hero.

Making The “Case” For Saugatuck El

Last night, Staples Tuition Grants handed out $304,000 in scholarships to 113 high school seniors, and graduates already in college.

The event marked 75 years of STG financial help. It’s always uplifting and warm — a celebration of promise, purpose and community.

As usual, the Staples library was packed with recipients, donors, and proud family members and teachers.

But this time, there were younger faces.

The first-ever Saugatuck Elementary School Community Award was given. It’s a project of the school’s Caring Council — 4th and 5th graders who volunteer for philanthropic causes — and they were there to see “their” honoree.

They and their classmates walked a combined 2,501 miles this year, in a fundraising effort. They mapped their miles “across the USA,” with “stops” at universities attended by their teachers.

Caring Council members who attended last night’s ceremony were thrilled to meet awardee Case Videler. An SES graduate himself — now headed to the University of Delaware — he embodies the Caring Council mission.

Case Videler, and members of the Saugatuck Elementary School Caring Council.

Saugatuck El and Staples Tuition Grants share even more ties than Case, though.

This year’s 13th annual walk-a-thon kicked off with a speech by DARE officer Ned Batlin — a former STG recipient.

And a powerful video celebrating the organization’s 75th anniversary was created by Westport’s own Doug Tirola — a former SES parent.

It was a night that the 113 scholarship recipients will always remember.

And one that some future grads — members of Staples High’s classes of 2025 and 2026 — won’t forget either.

(For more on Staples Tuition Grants, click here.)

Staples Tuition Grants: 75 Years In 8 Minutes

Staples Tuition Grants turns 75 years old this year.

To celebrate, the organization — which last year provided over $300,000 in scholarships to 115 Staples High School seniors and graduates with financial need — threw a fundraising party this month.

The event met its goal: over $75,000 in donations. (For 75 years — get it?).

One of the night’s highlights was a video. Produced by talented Westport filmmaker (and Staples grad) Doug Tirola, it featured well-known residents and SHS alums like Christopher Jones, Justin Paul, Ned Batlin, Linda Bruce, Jessica Branson, Miggs Burroughs, Anne Hardy, Dan Donovan and Maggie Mudd. They offered insights into their own scholarships and those named for loved ones, plus thoughts on the importance of college and life.

The video — filled joy and heartache, humor and love — is well worth the 8 minutes. Enjoy!

(For more information on Staples Tuition Grants, or to donate, click here.)

Celebrating 75 Years Of Staples Tuition Grants

In 1943, the Staples High School PTA gave $100 to a group of Westporters. They in turn found a worthy recipient, who would otherwise be unable to attend college.

With that donation, Staples Tuition Grants was born.

In 2017 — nearly 75 years later — the organization provided $300,000 in assistance to over 100 recipients. They were graduating seniors, and college students who had received previous grants. They’re attending public and private universities, junior colleges and vocational schools.

They supplement their grants with jobs. They work hard. They’re grateful that college — exponentially more expensive than ever — can be a reality.

Some of the awardees at the 2015 Staples Tuition Grants ceremony.

STG is rightfully proud that for three-quarters of a century, they’ve provided millions of dollars to tens of thousands of students.

So they’re throwing a party. The theme — naturally — is “75 years of college.”

Set for Saturday, March 10 (7 p.m., Branson Hall at Christ & Holy Trinity Church), the casual, fun event features college-ish food (pizza, burgers), drink (keg beer, wine) and music from (most) attendees’ college years. There could be ping pong and foosball too.

Party-goers are encouraged to wear their school colors or logowear. A 1955 recipient has already RSVP-ed. Organizers hope other former recipients will attend too.

The cost is $75. (It’s a fundraiser, obviously.) Organizers are soliciting 75 business sponsors, at $100 each (in honor of that first-ever grant).

Gault Energy and Melissa & Doug have signed on as lead sponsors.

Igor Pikayzen — a 2005 Staples grad, and STG recipient — will play. Westport filmmaker Doug Tirola — whose father was on the STG board — is making a special video. Former STG recipients Ned Batlin and Trevor Lally will give brief remarks. So will Miggs Burroughs, who designed the logo.

Everyone — Staples grads, and those of every other high school; college alumni and people who never went; anyone who ever got a scholarship, and anyone who did not — is invited to the 75th anniversary celebration.

Let’s make sure that Staples Tuition Grants is still doing great deeds in 2093 — 75 years from now.

(Click here for tickets to the 75th anniversary celebration, and more information. If you’re a former recipient and would like to be taped for a video, or are interested in helping sponsor the event, email poley@optonline.net.)

Staples Tuition Grants: The Story Behind The Tagline

Since 1943, Staples Tuition Grants has helped ensure that no Staples High School graduate is denied a college education because of financial need. The all-volunteer organization has awarded millions of dollars, and impacted thousands of lives.

Its recipients are grateful. So are its donors — many of whom contribute to funds named for teachers, classmates or family members who have died.

Some of the awardees at the 2015 Staples Tuition Grants ceremony.

But many other people who could help — or be helped by — STG stay uninvolved. The reason: Its name.

Some folks think “Staples Tuition Grants” help pay for tuition to the high school. Others wonder why a public school needs money in the first place.

When Lee Saveliff became donor co-chair 3 years ago, she wanted to spread the word that Staples tuition grants actually help graduating seniors and students already in college (and vocation schools).

She and co-chair Kate Andrews ramped up publicity. But they kept searching for new ways to send the message.

At last, they’ve got one. It’s spectacularly simple: A tagline.

From now on, the logo and all print material will say: “Staples Tuition Grants. Closing the college tuition gap for graduates since 1943.”

It’s simple. It’s clear.

And it’s rolling out already.

The tagline appears on publicity for a fundraising event. This Saturday (May 6, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.), Indulge by Mersene will donate a portion of all profits to STG.

Mersene’s Railroad Place store is a fantastic place for unique items — including “06880”-themed pillows, apparel and more. They’re perfect for (hint, hint) graduation gifts.

Mersene is doing her part for Staples Tuition Grants.

And on Saturday, if customers ask what STG is, she just has to point to the new logo.

An “06880” pillow at Indulge by Mersene.

(Can’t make it to Indulge by Mersene on Saturday? You can still contribute! Click here, or mail a check to Staples Tuition Grants, PO Box 5159, Westport, CT 06881-5159.)

Staples Tuition Grants Seeks Stories

Staples Tuition Grants new logoSince 1943, Staples Tuition Grants has helped graduates pay for college. The low-key but vital organization has awarded millions of dollars, and impacted thousands of lives. Every recipient has a story.

Now — as organizers prepare for next year’s 75th anniversary — they want to hear as many of them as they can.

So they’re asking:

  • Where did you go to college?
  • What did you study?
  • How did the seed money help you?
  • Where has your journey taken you — professionally and personally?

STG hopes to raise awareness of its mission — and its great success — since that first $100 award, back when FDR was in the White House.

Email your stories (and photos!) to: info@staplestuitiongrants.org, or send them via snail mail: Staples Tuition Grants, PO Box 5159, Westport, CT 06881-5159.

Some of the awardees at the 2015 Staples Tuition Grants ceremony.

Some of the awardees at the 2015 Staples Tuition Grants ceremony.

 

 

 

$100 Award Pays Millions In Dividends

Staples High School’s Class of 1943 had a less than joyful year.

In the midst of World War II, students with last period free left school early. Some worked for local industries, making items needed for the war effort. Others harvested crops on local farms, replacing older men who had been called up to serve.

Bill Torno’s shop classes built rifle racks, each holding 32 guns, for the Westport Defense Training Unit. He also taught welding. Miss Ossi’s home economics students made nearly 100 cotton hospital bags.

Boys headed to the YMCA every Tuesday for mandatory Commando training. Instruction included diving from the side of a burning ship, and swimming underwater while oil burned on the surface.

When they graduated in June, 10 students — exactly 10 percent of the entire class of 100 — were not there. Stars next to their names meant they had already left school, for the armed forces. The yearbook was dedicated to them.

Amid all the grim news, one announcement stood out. Valedictorian David Hughes received several awards: a DAR citizenship medal, the RPI math prize and a $10 English prize.

He also earned a $100 scholarship from the Staples PTA. That was the very first gift from the organization now known as Staples Tuition Grants.

David Hughes' writeup in the 1943 Staples yearbook.

David Hughes’ writeup in the 1943 Staples yearbook.

Hughes made the most of his award. He went to Harvard; married Janet Brandon of Staples’ Class of 1944, and became Mason Professor of Music at his alma mater. He traveled widely, and retired to coastal Maine.

In the more than 7 decades since Hughes’ scholarship, STG has grown into one of Westport’s most important community groups. Today they award college and trade school tuition grants of up to $6,000 a year, to Staples seniors. Scholarships — which are strictly need-based — can be renewed each year during college.

Last year, STG provided $300,000 to 115 deserving Staples seniors and alumni.

Staples Tuition Grants has provided literally tens of millions of dollars in scholarships. That’s been life-changing for thousands of students.

Some of the awardees at last year's Staples Tuition Grants ceremony.

Some of the awardees at last year’s Staples Tuition Grants ceremony.

The men and women who make up the STG committee perform some of the most important volunteer jobs in town. They scrutinize applications. They interview applicants. And they raise all those funds.

It’s not easy to ask Westporters — and Staples alums — to contribute to Staples Tuition Grants. The perception is that everyone here can afford college.

That’s certainly not the case. The thank-you notes — and heartfelt speeches during the awards ceremony every June — testify to the value of what STG does.

The holiday season — with so many competing demands on time and money — is also not the easiest time to ask for money. But STG believes that now is when donors will realize how far their funds will go.

Many awards honor specific individuals (click here for that list). A newly named award — the Westport Families  Scholarship — is a great way to honor favorite teachers.

Staples Tuition Grants new logoSTG is reaching out to former awardees for donations. The board also wants to hear stories of how their scholarships have helped. If you received a grant — any time from the 1940s to today — email alumni@staplestuitiongrants.org, and let them know what it meant.

Meanwhile, David Hughes’ legacy lives on. The first Staples Tuition Grants honoree died last year. But his daughter lives in Queens. She has been invited to the annual ceremony next spring.

There, she will see the magic that began 74 years ago — in some of America’s darkest days — continues brightly.

(Click here to contribute to Staples Tuition Grants. You can also mail a check to Staples Tuition Grants, PO Box 5159, Westport, CT 06881-5159. On Christmas Eve, STG members and recipients will wrap gifts at Barnes & Noble, in exchange for tips. For more information on STG, click here. Hat tip: Fred Cantor.)

Fred Cantor Grants Staples A Special Gift

All year long, Staples Tuition Grants raises money for scholarships.

Tonight, they give it away.

Staples Tuition Grants new logoOver 100 students — soon-to-be graduates as well as alumni from the past 4 years — will receive $300,000 in college aid.

The ceremony is low-key, but warm and inspiring.

And very, very important. Contrary to myth, there is plenty of need right here in Westport.

Fred Cantor did not receive an STG grant when he graduated from Staples in 1971. He no longer has formal ties to the school; he’s just a proud alum.

But the longtime Westporter is eager to give back. Recently, he found a unique way to do so.

For the 1970s on, he’s taken photos of iconic Westport scenes. Now he’s licensed 5 of them to STG: Main Street with Remarkable Book Shop; Fairfield Furniture and the Saugatuck River; Fine Arts Theater; Longshore’s main entrance, and Railroad Place.

They’re displayed on gift items like luggage tags, coffee mugs, magnets, note cards and tote bags. They’re on sale to the public — with all profits going to the scholarship organization.

Actually, they’ll go to one specific fund: the STG award named after Chou Chou Merrill. The 1970 grad reveled in her childhood and youth here — the memories she shared, the friendships she nurtured, the opportunities she was given. She died in 2014.

A luggage tag, with an image of the Longshore entrance.

A luggage tag, with an image of the Longshore entrance.

Fred says that the photos and souvenirs are a perfect way for Westporters, current and spread around the globe, to show their affection for this town. And help a great cause.

How generous of Fred — an avid “06880” reader — to think of Staples Tuition Grants in this way.

How fitting that he’s chosen Chou Chou’s scholarship to be the recipient of his generosity.

Now all you have to do is click here for a great Fred Cantor-themed/Westport-style/STG-assisting souvenir. (NOTE: More items will be added soon!)

(The public is invited to today’s Staples Tuition Grants ceremony [Thursday, June 9, 5:30 p.m. in the Staples library]. To donate to Staples Tuition Grants, click here.) 

all feature Fred Cantor's photos of Westport.

Luggage tags, coffee mugs, magnets, note cards and tote bags feature Fred Cantor’s photos of Westport. Fairfield Furniture is now back to its original name: National Hall.

Tracy Yost Peddles Great New Bike Rental Service

When Tracy Yost’s husband was transferred to Santa Cruz, she stayed behind in Bethel. Her twin daughters were finishing high school, and she had a great job as a fitness director in Greenwich.

A year later, Tracy joined him in California. When she could not find fitness work, her husband encouraged her to unwind.

Tracy Yost

Tracy Yost

She hiked, played beach volleyball, and biked and walked everywhere. She fell in love with the wonderful weather, and “came alive.” She had never been so happy.

Looking back, she saw that she’d been caught up in Fairfield County’s long, daily marathon of work, driving, and running a high-pressure household.

Eighteen months later — right after her youngest daughter was accepted at Cal Poly — her husband’s company asked him to return to the East Coast. Tracy was devastated.

She moved back on January 16, 2015 — her birthday. With her driver’s license expired that day, she could not rent a car at the airport. Besides which, the airline lost her luggage.

But someone lent her a car. A friend took her to the Spotted Horse. She realized she’d be fine.

Leaving California, Tracy knew she wanted to live somewhere near the water, in a town influenced by New York with a vibrant downtown. Her home would be no bigger than 3,000 square feet — without a pool.

She had a preconceived, not-good notion of Westport. But realtor Lisa Duguay said, “It’s a jewel — a real community. People really support good organizations. There’s a great beach.”

Tracy found a perfect house near downtown. She and her husband moved in.

Then came 9 weeks of snow. And, a month after arriving, Tracy was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Today — after an operation and radiation — she believes it was cancer, not Santa Cruz, that made her understand she has only one life. She needed direction, and had to take care of herself.

Westport is not Santa Cruz. But it has its own charms.

Westport is not Santa Cruz. But it has its own charms.

She started juicing, and going to hot yoga. And she thought of what she could do for others.

Assessing her new life, she looked back on what she missed: Connecting with people in a fun, leisurely way. The California coastline. The “pedestrian” lifestyle.

Then she thought: Hey! I live on a coastline. I have a degree in fitness. I can do something recreational, connecting people with the beach, downtown, and a lifestyle that does not always have to be crazy busy.

Westporters were already rowing, and renting stand-up paddleboards.

But no one was renting bikes here. Whoa!

Bob Hogan, of Fairfield County SCORE — the organization that offers free advice to budding entrepreneurs — helped her write a business plan. They did it during her radiation. (“Now you have focus!” he said.)

Which is how and why Westport Bike Rentals is ready to take Westport by storm.

Tracy bought 20 bikes, and a van. She developed a few Westport routes (and can customize more, on request).

Riders call 203-917-9533,  click on www.westportbikerentals.com, or email thebikelady@westportbikerentals.com. She meets them, delivering bikes for one of 3 options: a twilight ride ($25), 6 hours ($39) or all-day ($49). Helmets and a bike lock are included.

Tracy brings her bikes to riders, via van.

Tracy brings her bikes to riders, via van.

Tracy chose her 3 drop-off locations carefully. One is Long Lots School.

Another is the Imperial Avenue parking lot. The bike can be locked for a walk downtown, through Baron’s South, then over to Granola Bar — or anywhere else.

Saugatuck train station is the 3rd spot. Tracy has a contract with Metro-North, so riders can purchase a ticket and bike rental together.

The idea is not just to hop on a bike and pedal. Tracy wants riders to “go slow and explore.” In other words: Don’t just ride. If you’re heading through Longshore, stop at Pearl and have an appetizer. Then examine the graveyard on the exit route.

She offers plenty of pre-planned routes. Some are “low-key and chill,” with stops at places like the Black Duck or Christie’s Country Store. Others are “hip and happenin'” (Bartaco, Neat).

Tracy enjoys getting lost in history, so many of her routes take riders past historic sites and landmarks.

Tracy Yost, with some of her 20 bikes.

Tracy Yost, with some of her 20 bikes.

She kicks off Westport Bike Rentals with a series of Monday 2-hour twilight  rides. They’re free — but donations are accepted. Each week, a different local non-profit will benefit. The first — on May 2 — aids Staples Tuition Grants(Click here for more information, or to sign up.)

Tracy says “I want to be part of the local community.”

It sounds like she already is. And bikers, explorers and everyone else should be glad that her local community is Westport — not Santa Cruz.

(Anyone signing up for Tracy’s newsletter receives 10% off a May rental — and a copy of “The Bike Lady’s 10 Secret Locations to Chillax in Westport.”)

Westport Bike Rentals logo

Give The Gift Of…

Sure, you could have blown off your family, friends and football, and spent Thanksgiving at a mall.

Or you could have blown off work and the kids, and spent yesterday shopping online, during the made-up holiday called “Cyber Monday.”

But it’s so much better to shop locally. So here — as Christmas creeps up on us, and Chanukah looms even closer (it starts Sunday!) — “06880” presents our 1st-ever Holiday Shopping Guide.

If you’re looking for something that says (or screams) “Westport,” consider:

The Beautiful Pond.” This just-released book celebrates — in stunning watercolor and text — the historic, versatile and beautiful Sherwood Mill Pond.
A labor of love from Judith Katz and Robin Tauck — with all proceeds benefiting Sound Waters’ academic enrichment programs — it’s available at Barnes & Noble, Earthplace, and online here.

Beautiful Pond cover

A restaurant gift card is always welcome. One of my favorite spots is Kibberia. Located on the Norwalk line, this unpretentious spot serves spectacular Middle Eastern food. Owner Nick Iskandar is one of the truly good guys, and deserves all the support we can give him.

Kibberia

A bit pricier — and like Kibberia, not always on everyone’s radar — is Positano. This summer the Scarpati family relocated from Old Mill Beach to the site of the old Dressing Room, next to the Westport Country Playhouse. It’s a beautiful space, with the same regional Italian cuisine and family atmosphere diners have loved for years. Mangia!

Positano

From Positano, stroll a few feet to the Playhouse. Gift certificates are available there too, for events from the 2016 season to the Family Festivities series and Script in Hand play readings. Too often, Westporters overlook this cultural (and very cool) gem.

Playhouse logo

Speaking of food, the Farmers Market (winter version) is open Saturdays, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Gilberties’ Herb Gardens on Sylvan Lane. You may not always think of artisanal breads and cheeses, meats, baked goods, seasonal vegetables and hydroponically grown salad greens as holiday gifts, but there’s also organic maple syrup, interesting teas, dog biscuits and the like. Hey, I’m just trying to offer some only-in-Westport choices…

Westport farmers market logo

The chainification strangling Main Street is thankfully absent from Saugatuck. That neighborhood is still home to unique shops. The funkiest, friendliest and most fun of all may be Indulge by Mersene. From her digs on Railroad Place directly across from the train station, Mersene (like Cher and Adele, she needs only one name) sells a melange of gifts. Local artisans’ works, gourmet foods, decorative pillows, jewelry, home decor — it’s all there. The owner is as much an attraction as her goods — and that’s saying something.

Mersene, with some of her many unique creations.

Mersene, with some of her many unique creations.

A couple of steps from Indulge by Mersene is Suited.co. This men’s store — offering custom-tailored suits, blazers and shirts — is a cut apart from traditional clothing shops. The fabrics and selections are both classic and hip. Suited.co is a little fish in a big sartorial pond, but definitely worth checking out.

Suited.co

If you’re one of those who look for worthy causes at the holidays — and I sure hope you do — you don’t have to look far. Some of my favorites in Westport are A Better ChanceAl’s Angels, Homes With Hope, Project Return and Staples Tuition Grants. Many others — including those just beyond our borders, like Mercy Learning Center and the Adam J. Lewis Preschool — do amazing work (and have amazing needs).

ABC logo

You can add your own special organization to the list. I’m sure you’ve got other gift ideas too. I’ve only scratched the surface. Click “Comments” below, to share your favorites with the very giving, very generous “06880” community.

WHS 06880 towels

Bonus idea: Why not give “06880” itself? You’ll find items like these at the Westport Historical Society.