$7 Million Gift to Community Foundation Funds Place-Based Scholarships

The Michigan Gateway Community Foundation in Buchanan, Michigan, has announced a $7 million gift from the estate of Walter E. Schirmer, Jr. to endow a scholarship fund for local students.

The bequest from Schirmer will fund the Buchanan Promise, a place-based scholarship program tied to residency within the area served by the Buchanan Community School District. Beginning with the class of 2017, every Buchanan High School graduate who has been enrolled and resided in the district since kindergarten or first grade will be eligible to receive $10,000 over four years to help pay for their postsecondary education, including vocational training school, technical programs at a community college, and apprenticeship programs. Graduates who have lived in the district for at least four years and attended a BCS school will receive $7,000, with a sliding scale for those in-between, depending on the length of residency and enrollment.

Schirmer, who died in May, was a 1954 graduate of Buchanan High School and worked for many years at Clark Equipment, which is headquartered in Buchanan and where his father was president. Walter E. Schirmer, Sr. co-founded the Michigan Gateway Community Foundation in 1978 and established a fund for scholarships and another for the local library there. His son established his own fund at the foundation in 1994.

"He sought to transform the community with a long-term investment in a place-based scholarship program," Jerry Flenar, a friend of Schirmer's, told the South Bend Tribune. "He believed deeply in expanding access to college and creating a college-going culture."

"Michigan Gateway Community Foundation Reveals Buchanan Promise Scholarship Program." Michigan Gateway Community Foundation Press Release 08/10/2016. Debra Haight. "Buchanan Philanthropist's $7 Million to Cover College Scholarships for Local Students." South Bend Tribune 08/11/2016.