OROVILLE – Change is never easy.
But a group of Oroville High School graduates are making the metamorphosis from Hornet to Husky a little less scary.
Ray Wilson and John Zosel both left Oroville after graduating in 1964 for the promise of a University of Washington education. Wilson is now a (mostly) retired MD living in Bellevue and Zosel lives in Oroville.
But neither one of them has forgotten their roots.
Beginning this fall quarter, Oroville High School graduates enrolling at UW will have another source for college funding.
An endowment has been set up to benefit Oroville students continuing on at UW.
“I can’t think of a better way to invest my money then helping young people get an education,” Wilson said recently while in town for a mini-class reunion.
Wilson graduated from UW in pharmacy sciences in 1969. He is an active alumnus at both the university and the college of pharmacy, which raised $50,000 in a night for a pharmacy scholarship.
At a high school class reunion the next year, Wilson decided to try to repeat that success.
“I looked around and thought, there are some really successful people from Oroville. Why don’t we do something like that?”
He proposed the idea to Zosel and soon the ball was rolling.
“We contacted all the OHS and UW graduates we could find,” Wilson said.
The university has computer records of students dating back to 1984, but for anything before then, Wilson and Zosel relied on word-of-mouth and networking to conduct their search.
They found 150 people in all and began sending letters, making phone calls and even some personal visits.
At the end of March, Wilson and Zosel received word: The Oroville High School Endowed Scholarship was official. After their initial $10,000 contribution, alumni from both Oroville and UW had come together to raise the $50,000 required to begin a self-renewing endowment. Five percent of the money will be paid out per year in $2500 per year scholarships, allowing the rest to gather interest and grow for years to come.
“I thought it was time to pay back what I got,” Wilson said. He attended UW on scholarships and felt like his experience was worth passing on. He received a Bachelors of Science in pharmacy, then a PhD from the University of Kansas and finally an MD from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. He has worked in Wenatchee and Seattle and taught at UW.
The scholarship has two criteria. The first is academic, but if a student has been accepted at UW, that alone proves their academic merit, Wilson said. The second is need and applying shows need, he said.
The scholarship is open to any incoming freshmen from OHS first. If no students qualify, which has happened, it opens up to students at community colleges and transfer students. If there are none of those, students already at the university can apply.
“If there are no students attending the UW or who qualify, then it opens up to the entire county,” Wilson said. While there hasn’t always been a Hornet in Husky clothing, someone from Okanogan County has always been at the UW, Wilson said.
Incoming freshman can continue to reapply for all four years, he said.
Wilson wants to pass on his UW experiences.
“I believe that it is an exceptional university,” he said. “It’s consistently rated in the top-50 universities across the world … It’s an amazing, very unique place.”
UW has helped shape Wilson into the person he is today.
“It really made me a lot more open minded then I was before,” he said. “I have a broader view of the world now. I saw students from all over the world there – that’s an experience I didn’t get in Oroville.”
Providing funding for students not only helps alleviate the costs of college – a year of tuition at UW costs more than $6,000, plus living expenses and fees, books and other costs, totaling about $18,000 a year for undergraduate students. Scholarships also allow students to spend more time on school and social activities and less time working.
“If students are forced to take a job and work, they’re denied the opportunity to participate in community and campus activities,” Wilson said. “This enables them to be freed up for research, community activities and service while at the UW. If they don’t have to work, then they can get more involved, which is an important part of the education experience.”
There are currently two Oroville grads at UW and one more beginning this fall.
The OHS Endowed Scholarship fund isn’t only new in Oroville. It marks the first time a group of alumni from a certain high school in Washington state have come together to make up a scholarship, Wilson said.
“No school in Washington has ever done this before,” he said. “There’s never been a high school in Washington where a bunch of alumni got together and endowed a scholarship.”
That’s a point of pride for Wilson and other Oroville graduates.
“This is a small school that no one’s ever heard of,” said Ted Landreth, a good friend of Wilson’s and a WSU graduate. “There’s an underdog mentality. But Oroville keeps getting its name out.”
Landreth and Wilson made the trip east together for the small class reunion.
Since the program is an endowment, alumni – or anyone else – can continue to give money, he said.
“People who couldn’t this time around, who can’t today or tomorrow, may be able to give five years from now,” he said. “There’s no maximum here.”
With Oroville’s endowment established, Wilson wants to extend the challenge to other area high schools and wouldn’t mind seeing the idea spread to other universities – though this Husky still bleeds purple.