Union City Rotary Club
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Scholarship Program History

Union City, population approximately 11,000, is the county seat of Obion County, total population 32,000. We are an agriculture community mixed with manufacturing in rural northwest Tennessee. We have two school systems: Union City System which has about 85 graduating each year and Obion County School System with two high schools: Obion County Central High School with about 225 graduating each year and South Fulton High School graduating about 60 each year.

The Union City Rotary Club was chartered September 2, 1936. We have 145 members in our club. In 1982 when Gus White (one of our charter members and past district governor) died, a trust fund of $10,000 was set up for a scholarship in his memory. Hardy Graham started this trust with a $1,000 donation. Gus White's two grandsons are active in our club today. In 1983 Old & Third National Bank (now Commercial Bank & Trust Company) had a trust fund that had been left in a will for scholarships; the trust officer, John Pylant, asked if they could join with us to make the processing of applicants easier. In 1984 we jumped to $5,000 and exploded from that point as seen below:

1982 $1,000 1983 $4,000 1984 $5,000 1985 $9,500 1986 $18,000 1987 $21,500 1988 $37,000 1989 $45,250 1990 $56,000
1991 $58,500 1992 $59,000 1993 $61,750 1994 $68,000 1995 $80,500 1996 $96,250 1997 $119,850 1998 $129,435 1999 $121,000
2000 $131,750 2001 $139,100 2002 $140,000 2003 $353,375 2004 $303,100 2005 $305,500 2006 $300,850 2007 $319,000 2008 $300,150
2018 $253,800 2019

The Union City Rotary Club awards total over $6,953,700 since 1982 and have helped over 4,227 students. David Critchlow, Sr. was chairman from 1985 to 1994. Clay Woods was chairman from 1994 to 2004 and Roger Williams was chairman from 2005 to 2012. Today our committee consists of Interview and Awards Committee members Greg Dozier (chairman), Richard Graham, Mike Cox, Donnie Walton, Kyle Baggett and Lindsay Frilling. The Scholarship Seating and Donor Committee includes Troy Arnold, Skipper Bondurant, Justin Stokes, Lance Young, Brian Kissell, John Miles, Hadley Malone, Tim Shanks, Bob Regen, Cody Martin and Richard Graham. Clint Joiner leads the Rotary website integration process.

In May of 2002, our Club received a gift from an estate in the amount of $3,500,000. The income from this money will be awarded on a need basis to students who attended Union City High School and have completed one full year of college. As of 2008, we have awarded $656,000 from the Verhine Fund. Hardy Graham has been the "Cornerstone" of our program. He has led the way in donating monies throughout the years and setting an example for other donors. Mr. Hardy passed away in 2007, but he will always be remembered as a strong supporter of our program.

Our money is raised in several different ways:

  • Funds come from annual donations from individuals and companies.

  • Funds come from honoring or memorializing a person living or deceased. The money is invested and the interest generated funds the scholarship each year.

  • Funds come into the program through codicils in wills.

We now have approximately $500,000 in a trust fund where the interest is awarded in scholarships. We have another $200,000 left in a will by Madge and Elmo Short, who were long time teachers at Hornbeak, and the income from this money will go to students majoring in education from one of our county schools.

The members of the committee have certain jobs that they perform each year. We do not change members on the committee very often; in fact it has been rumored that you have to die to get off the committee.

The accounting firm of Alexander, Thompson & Arnold (ATA) handles the collections and disbursements of all moneys. The checks are issued on a semester basis and are made jointly payable to the college and the student. We process over 350 applications annually, and it takes many hours of work by the committee to distribute these awards.

Our main theme for the program is to help needy students get a chance to go to college. We started with helping graduating high school seniors get into college who might not have had a chance or motivation to attend. We found a lot of parents did not provide any encouragement for the student to go to college and just wanted the students to get a job and get on their own. A number of the Rotarians get personally involved with the students and help them register for college and check on their progress during the year. A great number of our scholarship recipients are from divorced homes and a large number of the fathers are not present or involved with the students. We have had several who have not had parents at all. Mr. Hardy Graham started our "Sophomore Program" by creating a funded $35,000 scholarship and the interest generated creates a $2,500 award each year. We now send an application to each student who received an award the previous year and have a large number of upperclassmen awards. Several years ago we started trying to get a "Technology" program started for Vo-Tech students. We realized that we were doing some students an injustice by getting them into college; then when they graduated they had no skills and could not find a job. Our rural area needed carpenters, plumbers, electricians, electronic (computer trained auto mechanics, etc.), computer repairmen, masons, etc.; a student could make a great living with training from 9 months to 2 or 3 years. There was a recent article in the USA Today that stated the training people for a high-tech world is a problem. By 2012, 75% of all new jobs will require technical skills. It is impossible to put a price on what it will cost to address that training crisis nationwide, but it will be expensive if the auto industry is any indication. Interactive Solutions, a unit of Teltronics, claims that 30% of the automotive industry's warranty repair cost are the result of faulty diagnoses by technicians. That creates billions of dollars a year in waste associated with unnecessary labor and parts.

A very critical part of our program is the high school guidance counselor. They encourage the students to get the online scholarship applications completed in timely manner. We have a cut off of April 15 each year for the applications to get to our committee via our online application forms. We normally interview three days during the last of April from 7:00 AM to about 5:00 PM. Each member of the committee votes from 1 to 10 on each student and it is amazing that we almost always are within one point of each other. We then rank the students by school and the highest ranked students get the highest awards.

The Union City Rotary Club believes in education and takes a strong stance to enable those in need an opportunity to attend the college of their choice. Thank you for your interest in the Union City Rotary Club's Scholarship Program.

Click here to Apply for a Rotary Scholarship online.

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