Scholarships: Opportunities & Legacies

Scholarship season is in full swing at The Alaska Community Foundation, with 15 currently open cycles and several more set to open on March 7. If you peruse our scholarships page, you’ll find scholarships that support students in a variety of pursuits, ranging from traditional university education and vocational programs to flight training.

What you might not know are the legacies behind these scholarships.


Of our 40+ scholarships nearly half of them are named, meaning they were established to honor the life of their namesake.

Shelly Szepanski

Shelly Szepanski

The Shelly Szepanski Memorial Flight Scholarship, for example, was named for an incredible woman and pilot who sadly passed away after a four year battle with melanoma. Shelly was a wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game in Fairbanks. A true Alaskan adventuress, she loved being outdoors, hunting, fishing, and especially flying. It was Shelly’s wish to create a continuing scholarship fund. In her memory, the Shelly Szepanski Memorial Flight Scholarship helps qualified applicants earn their pilot’s license and/or commercial or instruments rating. Preference is given to female biologist-pilots, like Shelly was. Shelly’s story is an inspirational one. According to Shelly’s obituary, despite battling cancer she continued to work on her doctorate program in moose research, got her pilot’s license, and took dressage lessons.

At The Alaska Community Foundation we have the honor of working with those who establish scholarships in memory of their loved ones. While the biographies of all of our named scholarships are published on our website, we get the privilege of hearing firsthand about what made these people special.

2016 02 18 Merritt Olson obit pic

Dr. Merritt C. Olson

Another shining example of a legacy living on is the Dr. Merritt C. Olson Scholarship. The scholarship was established by Dr. Merritt Olson one year before he passed away. An academic achiever, Merritt earned a doctorate in psychology from Rutgers University and spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar in Nigeria. Merritt taught secondary math at West High School and later served as a counselor, as well as taught psychology classes at Alaska Pacific University and the University of Alaska Anchorage. He was described as “a very unassuming man who was quiet about his accomplishments but tenacious about his advocacy” in an article written for the National Education Association – Alaska newsletter.

The Dr. Merritt C. Olson Scholarship is designed for West High School seniors, with preference given to applicants who intend to pursue a career in education, specifically as either a math, history or English teacher, or as a guidance counselor.

Below is a list of some our named funds, many of which are currently featured on our website. Check out our scholarships page to learn more about these great opportunities!

Shelly Szepanski Memorial Flight Scholarship
Luella James Scholarship
Shayna Marie Pritchard Scholarship
Carl Seaman Scholarship
Kenny Carver Scholarship (Kenai and Soldotna)
Tim Akers Scholarship
Dr. Merritt Olson Academic Scholarship
Neal O. Thorpe Memorial Scholarship
Sven and Lorraine Eriksson Alaska Scholarship – check back, opening soon!
Kathryn E. and John P. Doyle Scholarship – opening soon!
Gary Martin Swim Scholarship – check back, opening soon!
Chef Cotter Scholarship – check back, opening soon!
David E. Knox Memorial Nursing Fellowship – check back, opening soon!

The Alaska Community Foundation is proud to be a space for community remembrance through giving. Through connecting people to causes they care about, we have the privilege of sharing with Alaskans the stories of those individuals who have loved our state and lived legacies worth remembering and carrying on. In their honor, the ambitions of thousands of like-minded students and dreamers are fulfilled every year – to create their own legacies worth living.

Categories:

Community Development

About the Author: Sarah Zerkel

Sarah Zerkel is a Program Associate at The Alaska Community Foundation. She can be reached at szerkel@alaskacf.org or (907) 274-6710.