Spotlight on Service Recipients 2011:
To see the 2010 Spotlight on Service Recipients, click here.
Eric Isbister and his wife, Mary, also a Rotarian, have always been involved with community programs centered on kids and education. Still, although he chairs the committee and serves as a mentor to an RCM Scholar, Eric isn’t quite sure how he got involved with the RCM Scholarship Committee. “I think it was one of those ‘right place right time’ things,” he says, “I was new to Rotary and so was the committee. I was asked to serve, I said yes and it was a great fit.”
Eric finds the scholarship program so rewarding because of the direct interaction with scholarship recipients. “You can look the person in the eye that you are helping,” he says. The committee gave out its first three scholarships in 2009, and this year awarded five more scholars. For the most part, these students are the first in their families to attend college, which can present its own unique challenges. “We can help them fight the gravitational pull of family history,” Eric says, “Hopefully, we can show them that the best way to help their family is to get a college education.”
The funds for the RCM scholarships were originally raised from committee members themselves, and then by proceeds from the Community Classic, recently renamed the Scholarship Golf Classic. RCM Scholarship committee members are looking to build the long-term viability of the scholarship program by following the example set by the Madison Rotary Club. The Madison Club has been giving scholarships for many years, primarily through named scholarships, which are created by a gift of $50,000 or more. “With named scholarships, we can grow our funds by not touching the principle and giving scholarships just through the interest,” Eric says. The committee is currently developing its own named scholarship program. More to follow soon.
Eric thinks the Rotary committee structure is key to the scholarship program’s success. “There’s such a wealth of talent in Rotary,” Eric says, “it’s like dropping a seed in fertile ground.” Rotarians have great ideas, and through Rotary, they can make those ideas happen.
Eric echoes the sentiments we heard from many Rotarians during the discussion groups held by Jeffrey Remsik this fall: RCM can do a better job of sharing our good works in the club and in the community. “Rotary is its own best-kept secret, “Eric says. “It’s a conduit, a process, a method of being able to do good things.”
In addition to his work with the RCM Scholarship committee, Eric serves on the Partners in Education committee, greets at Tuesday luncheons, and recently became the first Harry Franke Fellow. The Rotary Club of Milwaukee commends Eric for his service to the club and to students in the community.