Burke Endowment Funds 100th Scholarship Recipient
Hitting the century mark, whether it's 100 points in basketball, a 100 RBI season in baseball or becoming 100 years old, is one of those milestone moments that signifies a special accomplishment.
So it is for Lt. Gen. (U.S. Air Force retired) Kelly and Denny Burke of Shalimar, who saw their 100th Burke Scholarship awarded to Joyce Hollins, an Air Force staff sergeant at Eglin Air Force Base.
On hand for the occasion was the first Burke Scholar, Jeff Haney of DeFuniak Springs, selected in 1994 after the Burke family made a substantial gift of appreciated stock to establish a permanent scholarship endowment through the Okaloosa-Walton Community College Foundation.
Just like Haney seven years ago, Hollins, who is assigned to Eglin's 16th Electronic Warfare Squadron of the 53rd Air Wing, was " a little overwhelmed" when she learned she'd received the Burke Scholarship. "It means so much to me and my family," said Hollins, who is married to another Eglin airman.
But Hollins was unaware of her benefactors' background until she and Haney met with Kelly and Denny Burke recently. When Haney let her know that Kelly Burke is a retired Air Force three-star general, Hollins replied, "I had no idea. It makes this really special."
That's how the Burkes felt too. "At first I wasn't sure if this would work, " said Kelly Burke, as he recalled attending the Walton High School award ceremony in 1994 to present Haney his scholarship award. "I remember Jeff opened his letter afterwards and went, ÔWow!' Then I knew we'd made the right decision. Jeff has exceeded our expectations and we know Joyce will too."
Haney graduated from OWCC and used the Burke award to attend the University of West Florida where he earned a degree in mathematics, returning to Walton High School as a teacher and assistant football coach. Hollins plans to study either nursing or psychology.
Dr. James R. Richburg, OWCC President, said the Burkes increased their contributions to their endowment and now also provide two years of tuition assistance at one of the 10 state universities for Burke Scholars who graduate from OWCC.
"Kelly and Denny Burke don't just give scholarships,' said Richburg. "They have encouraged the Burke Scholars to get to know each other by having a special Burke Scholars breakfast once or twice a year." Richburg noted the Burkes stay involved with the scholarship program and have modified the selection so that their scholarship assists more returning students.
Richburg said the Burkes have supported OWCC with more than scholarships, including a $20,000 gift to the Nursing and Health Technology Endowment Campaign to establish health instructional programs at the college and the donation of a 26-foot deck boat for the college's environmental studies program.
For information about the Burke scholarship and application deadlines, contact the OWCC Foundation at 729-5357.