The Columbia Heights High School Alumni Scholarship Foundation received a large monetary gift this summer.
Columbia Heights High School 1954 alumnus John Dudziak’s estate gave the foundation $400,000 to fund trade school and college scholarships for graduating seniors.
“(Dudziak) was very interested in providing education benefits for kids and had made numerous smaller donations to other things,” said Joe Dudziak, brother of John Dudziak. “When he died, he had a provision in his trust that said it was supposed to take care of that, basically to provide educational grants.”
John Dudziak’s grant will pay for two $10,000 scholarships to students each year — one for a vocational school and one for an academic scholarship.
Up until this year, the foundation gave out $40,000 in scholarships a year, but this June it gave out $50,000. Next year, with the help of John Dudziak’s donation, it will award at least $60,000, said Vernon Hoium, Columbia Heights High School Alumni Scholarships Foundation president.
Hoium co-founded the foundation in the late ‘90s to commemorate his 50th anniversary of graduating from Columbia Heights High School in 1948.
“I decided that I wanted to do something to give back to the school,” Hoium said.
Hoium started the foundation with his own $50,000 contribution. Earl and Connie Bakken, Class of 1942, each contributed an additional $25,000 and Gerry Herringer, Class of 1952, matched Hoium’s $50,000.
Since then, the foundation has awarded 82 scholarships totaling more than half a million dollars.
Joe Dudziak selected the foundation to receive John Dudziak’s estate money because John was a lifetime resident of Columbia Heights and he graduated from the high school. John Dudziak died last December.
Initially Joe Dudziak planned to give $200,000 of his brother’s estate, but after meeting with the foundation board, he ultimately decided to donate twice that.
“The money was available, and I thought the foundation could handle it,” Joe Dudziak said.
John Dudziak donated the money because he wanted students to be able to attend more schooling and not be hindered by financial burdens.
“He never went to college himself, so he knew how tough it was for people to get the funding for it,” Joe Dudziak said. “He had money, and that’s the way he wanted it dispersed.”