25 years of Stewart Family scholarships begin

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Noble Central grad Taylor Holtorf and Dr. Barbara Stewart look at Taylor's award certificate. Taylor is the first recipient of the Gordon and Betty Mae Stewart Scholarship.

Awards acknowledge academics and commitment to community

The legacy of Gordon and Betty Mae Stewart will live on not only through their three daughters, but through a generation of Noble Central School graduates whose post-secondary aspirations will be supported with a significant gift from the family.

Taylor Holtorf, a graduate from Noble Central’s Class of 2015, had the distinction of being named the first recipient of the $1,000 Gordon and Betty Mae Stewart Scholarship. The inaugural award was the climax of the school’s awards evening Sept. 24, kicking off what will be a 25-year tradition.

Dr. Barbara Stewart, the middle daughter of Gordon and Betty Mae, attended the awards evening, and spoke lovingly of the values her parents held dear. Education was high on the list. All three of the Stewart children graduated from Noble Central School and continued to post-secondary education. Service and support of the community were just as important.

“Helping each other was a given,” she said, describing “countless volunteer hours” that her parents contributed to Nobleford’s tightly knit community.

Gordon Stewart, who passed away in 2009, was a grandson of one of the area’s turn-of-the-century homesteaders. Wife Betty Mae graduated from Noble Central School and served as a substitute teacher there for many years. She passed away in 2014.

The scholarship acknowledges more than academic success and speaks to the Stewarts’ encouragement “to work hard, to be charitable, to be kind and to go for our dreams,” Barbara said.

Inaugural recipient Holtorf fit the bill admirably. She served as student council president last year, spearheaded a school-wide collection effort for a regional food bank and was captain of the volleyball and basketball teams. This fall she’s continuing her education at the Criminal Justice program at Lethbridge College with hopes of becoming a police officer.

“I didn’t expect anything back,” she says, reflecting on her school leadership and community service work while noting the $1,000 scholarship is “very helpful.”

The evening also saw another gift from another family with long ties to the school and education system.

The Zech Family Scholarship of $500 was awarded to Bailey Coutu, who graduated in spring and is now also in the Criminal Justice program at Lethbridge College. That award was presented by Carol Zech. Her husband Don Zech, a long-time school board trustee, was in Calgary on board business.

Don was recently recognized for 40 years of service to Palliser Regional Schools as a teacher, principal, Central Office administrator and trustee. Don was valedictorian of his Noble Central graduating class. A farmer in the area, he has served the school system in nearly every capacity, including serving as chair of the Board of Trustees for nine years.

The Zech Family Scholarship honours students who contribute to community life, an acknowledgement of the importance of the school as the centre of the community.

Recipient Coutu said academic awards didn’t often come her way so she was excited to receive this one, and was even more impressed to learn about the commitment the Zech Family has made to the school community.

“I feel honoured,” she said.

Coutu, who continues to support the school as a volunteer coach, said she hopes to pursue a career in either policing or victim’s services.

Principal Greg Rollingson, new to Noble Central this year, said the extraordinary support of the Stewart and Zech families is a testament to the strength of the school community.

The example the families set in making education and community support top priorities sets a bar for future generations.

“It speaks to the quality of the people in the building, both the staff and students,” he said. “The kids here are extraordinary. I haven’t met an unfriendly one yet. They’re embracing and welcoming and they’re respectful.”