Updated: Behind a ‘memorial’ scholarship is a life cut short, so take a minute to remember

Caroline Attwood for Unsplash

As we approach the final month of the school year, we will start hearing soon about scholarship awards events for Lake Highlands High shoolers. Maybe our own child or a neighbor will win one, and that will be wonderful. Not to dampen any excitement – only to offer honors due – we point out that many of the scholarships you will hear about are “memorial scholarships.” That means they were created so that generations to come would remember the person for whom they are named. And that’s all we are here to do. Tell the stories of lives cut short, families devastated, and the hope found in helping others, because a scholarship can really change a young person’s life and the recipient might change the world.

Note: The following was compiled back in 2015. If you know of new memorial scholarships or would like to share a story we missed, please let me know at the email in my bio.

Update: Since we posted this Thursday, reader / parent Allison Griffin reminded us of a couple more memorial scholarships set up in the past few years. Both the Austin Silva and Julian Kampfschulte scholarships are available to LHHS seniors who attended White Rock Elementary. Each is in the memory of a child who attended WRE and established by sets of “amazing and resilient parents,” Griffin says.

I doubt there are many living in the Lake Highlands at the time who’ve forgotten either of their stories.

Austin Silva

Austin should have graduated from LHHS in 2018. In 2017, he died following complications after oral surgery. Griffin reminds us he was “an outstanding student, athlete, leader and faithful servant, who was beloved by his family and friends, the LH community, his church and all the kids he served at Camp Barnabas.” There are actually a few awards in Austin’s name including a soccer referee award. As Carol Toler writes, “While Austin was well-known around LH as a performer with the Wildcat Wranglers and a standout on the varsity tennis team. You may not know that the Lake Highlands Soccer Association also relied on Austin as a referee for youth soccer, and hundreds of young players trusted his direction each week. ”

Julian Kampfschulte

Julian died in 2016 of a rare genetic disorder. By that time, the 8-year-old was well known among residents of the Lake Highlands and beyond.

Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) is progressive, so Julian’s young classmates and teachers, nonprofits and churches and the whole community (including all of us at the Advocate) stayed nearby and offered what support we could during the months that the disease unfolded.

A film company called Fotolanthropy documented a holiday party put on by friends and neighbors. Brazos Films produced a short film, “Snuggle Julian,” about the Kampfschulte’s plight. Julian’s aunt, Katy Dilland, launched an organization by the same name. The images of Julian – his laughter, his tears, his tiny schoolmates gathered around him, guiding him to class, communicating with him by sign language – spread like wildfire and drew TV news reporters to his door.

In addition to the scholarships, his family has pushed for new laws that would require ALD testing in newborns. There is no cure for ALD. It can be treated, but only if detected before symptoms appear. Mandatory testing at birth is the most sensible way to prevent its fatal progression, most experts agree.

I also struck with the memory of when – during the school year after Austin Silva died – I interviewed another student from Lake Highlands whose brother was killed in a hit-and-run motorcycle accident. After losing his brother Braxton, Colt Brock says, both the Silva and Kampfschulte families were there for his own, showing support, love and empathy.

Melinda Lee

It is easy to picture Melinda Lee – 20 years old with a gentle smile, porcelain complexion, blonde curls – chatting with her sorority sisters as she drove away from the club that October night in 1994, unaware of what fate loomed on the road.

Wayland Leroy Lamb, 32, was drunk and distracted following a fight with his wife, according to court documents, when he barreled past the red light into their car.

All three girls were injured, Melinda beyond repair.

The next 54 days, Melinda lay in a Lubbock hospital, and her parents watched her die.

“She was on a fan, so she was unable to eat, drink, speak or breathe on her own the entire time,” her father Don Lee says. “Yet, she was conscious and alert most of the time. Just stop and imagine if you think you could exist in this type of condition for 54 days. ”

It is painful to talk about the details, Lee says, but he and his wife, Patsy, never want people to forget the lasting and far-reaching agony that can result from one decision to drive while intoxicated.

The Lees describe their daughter’s killer, who served 20 prison years, as “lost,” and someone they are now trying to forget.

A plaque near the front door of their Lake Highlands home reads, “In Memory of Melinda Ann Lee.” Family photos – many including a young Melinda – cover living room tables, walls and shelves; Melinda, Patsy and her other daughter, Jennifer, all share the same golden locks and fair skin.

For years after Melinda’s death, until health issues began holding them back, the Lees worked tirelessly to help reduce drunk driving by speaking at Mothers Against Drunk Driving events around the country and writing letters to the media.

“I have spoken to offenders, talked to a lot of people with DWI charges who admitted a drinking problem,” Don says. “Amazing how many there are out there who can’t control their drinking but who still get behind the wheel of a car.”

The Melinda Lee Scholarship, which has helped [more than 40] students and counting afford college, is perhaps their late daughter’s most-enduring legacy.

In 1996 the Lees launched the scholarship fund, from which they provide two yearly scholarships – one through the Lake Highlands Exchange Club and the other through Texas Tech University – to LHHS students who want to attend Tech.

“It gives us a good feeling,” Patsy says. “And it gives people a way to remember Melinda.”

The Exchange Club and Tech select the respective awardees. “We have been pleased with the recipients and we try to keep up with their progress,” Don says. He shares a letter from 2009 recipient Josh Evans.

Evans notes that he graduated with honors from the Texas Tech School of Engineering and was going to work for Exxon Mobil. Because of the Lees’ scholarship, along with other scholarships, he was the first person in his family to complete college.

“He will never know how much that letter meant to us,” Don says.

Note: Don Lee died in 2020, just a couple of years after Patsy died. The loss of them left a void in the Lake Highlands, but the amount of good they did around here and beyond is substantial and lasting.

Jack Stewart

The North Texas-based Lone Star Wind Orchestra, in collaboration with Ann and Pat Stewart awarded its first Jack Stewart Memorial Scholarship in May 2015.

Jack Stewart was an accomplished musician and the 2013 salutatorian at LHHS. Last year, Stewart was one of two Baylor students killed in a midday crash while en route to an International Clarinet Association meeting in Baton Rouge.

During his senior year at LHHS, Stewart won the inaugural Lone Star Youth Winds concerto and played two years with the youth orchestra. In his honor, the nonprofit orchestra created the Jack Stewart Music Changing Lives Endowment Fund, from which the scholarships will come.

Jack’s parents choose the scholarship recipients.

“The scholarship honors Jack’s enduring love of music, dedication, talent and artistry,” they wrote in an announcement of the scholarship. “And it is a tribute to his selflessness and pays homage to his compassion for others and the assistance he so eagerly provided to countless people in his short life.”

Kelsey Kidd

Kelsey was a 2001 LHHS graduate and a Texas Tech student who studied journalism and loved Aerosmith, Steel Magnolias and horseback riding. In the summer of 2005 she died in a car crash. Ten years later, her friends still leave notes on the wall of a memorial website. (“Kelsey, I miss you so much. Our reunion was not the same without you!” (Kelsey, I watched Steel Magnolias today and thought about you! “Kelsey, they remade Steel Magnolias. The Horror!”) She is also immortalized through the Kelsey Kidd Memorial Scholarship for LHHS students entering Tech.

John Stallings

John was an outstanding choir member, track athlete and scholar at Lake Highlands High School in the 1980s. The Texas A&M student died in a 1986 car accident. His parents established a memorial scholarship that to date has paid $ 65,000 to LHHS students who demonstrate musical talent and leadership abilities.

Katie Finley and Megan Jones

In 1996, a speeding police car crashed into and killed LHHS students Katie Finley and Megan Jones. Accident reports showed Katie was at fault, information that made nothing easier for the devastated family and friends of the popular and active teens. Through the Lake Highlands Wildcat Club, the Katie Finley Scholarship offers thousands of dollars toward college tuition each year to one LHHS student.

Jason and Mike Oglesby

Longtime member and past president of the Lake Highlands Exchange Club, Mike Oglesby and wife Jeanenne started a scholarship in memory of their son, Jason, who accidentally drowned in a swimming pool. After Mike died in 2013 from Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Jeanenne added a scholarship to commemorate her husband.

Jeffrey Titus

The 1st Lt. Jeffrey Titus Memorial Scholarship honors the memory of LHHS graduate Jeffrey Johnson who was killed in a car wreck.

Jeff Kane

Susan Kane provides an award in memory of her husband Jeff, former principal of Forest Meadow Junior High.

Frances and Herb Walne

Joan and Alan Walne donate a generous annual scholarship in memory of Alan’s parents Frances and Herb Walne.

Data Jo Potts

Bob Potts, longtime Exchange Club member and proprietor of Potts and Associates and The Store Decor Company, donates thousands of dollars worth of scholarships each year in memory of his first wife Data Jo, who died in 1995 of lung cancer.

Other notable scholarship contributors include Sally and Jim Nation, Cheri and Eric Luck and Wade Smith, an LHHS graduate who became a successful professional football player.

Another note: Lake Highlands High School students should talk to an academic counselor about available scholarships – it is impossible to list them all here. Lake Highlands Exchange Club member Don Lee told us years ago, and it is true today, that there is an abundance of college money available for students and that “the biggest challenge is getting them to apply.”

The Exchange Club and the Lake Highlands Women’s League raise funds throughout the year and give away hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships to LHHS graduates, in addition to overseeing several memorial scholarships.

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