By Laurie Krasin
Sometimes it just takes someone to believe in you. Since 1990, the family of Bernie Jones has believed in and supported the success of student scholarship recipients through a fund created to honor his memory.
The sudden death of Bernie Jones was a devastating loss to his family and a loss to Fond du Lac and the campus community. As a part of the healing process, the family started a golf tournament to raise funds for scholarships to carry on his legacy of community involvement and in the process has touched the lives of 44 students....so far.
“Somebody made a comment that it would be great if someone started a golf tournament to fund scholarships in his honor, and so we did,” said Brian Jones, one of Bernie’s three sons. “Being able to use a sport my father loved to pay back the institution that helped our family so much just seemed like a natural combination.”
Brian and his brothers, Jeff and Travis, along with their mom, Kathy, have carried forward Bernie’s spirit of giving back. Brian is also a member of the UW-Fond du Lac Foundation board of directors currently serving as vicepresident of the organization.
Bernie Jones returned to school at UW-Fond du Lac as a non-traditional student when he was in his late 30s. He went on to complete a degree in business administration from UW-Oshkosh and was then hired as business manager at UW-Fond du Lac. He was also the golf coach at the campus.
Brian hopes that the scholarship recipients know that his dad was the perfect example of working hard and playing hard. “I remember getting up to go to school as a kid and finding him at the dining room table still pulling an all-night study session when he went back to college.”
At the same time, Bernie played on the basketball team for UW-Fond du Lac and was the team’s high scorer on the eve of his 40th birthday. “Somehow he managed to carry a huge credit load, raise a family and was a heck of a basketball player,” said Brian. “If you put your mind to it, you can do it and have fun doing it.”
When the scholarships are awarded at the UW-Fond du Lac Foundation’s scholarship and donor recognition event each year, the family members are proud to be able to provide some help to students that are already working exceptionally hard to get through college. “I think simply letting them know that we believe in them enough to financially support them sends a tremendous message that they can succeed and get to where they want to be,” said Brian.
The family appreciates that the UW-Fond du Lac campus is a tremendous resource for the community and both traditional and nontraditional students according to Kathy Jones. “We’ve seen first-hand what it is like for students to try to simultaneously make ends meet and excel in the classroom and feel great that we are able to help in a small way each year.”
When the golf tournament began, Kathy says it was really about providing scholarships for that next school year. “Fortunately that has not only persevered, but prospered and allowed us to both award scholarships and build an endowment for future students, all while remembering Bernie and enjoying the event that the tournament has become.”
After 22 years of holding the golf tournament, that support shows no signs of slowing down. People keep coming back year after year with as many as 232 players participating in the event.
While continuing Bernie’s incredible legacy of helping students is the main draw, the tournament continues to succeed for many reasons. “After 20 plus years, some people still play to remember my dad and have a good time like he would be doing if he were here today,” said Brian. “I think others are drawn to the unique format using eight-inch cups and challenging pin placements in a scramble format.”
Since the scholarship fund was established, it has awarded almost $22,000 and has helped two UW-Fond du Lac students fund their higher education goals each year. “It would be fascinating to see what a difference each of the scholarship recipients is making in the world,” said Brian.
Bernie Jones, the husband, father, coach, student, athlete and businessman, will be remembered for his impact on the community and the difference his legacy continues to make in the world.
The family is grateful to the players and supporters of the Bernie Jones Scholarship through the Big Cup Scramble over the years. “It’s truly a case of the entire community supporting UW-Fond du Lac and its students,” said Brian. The 23rd annual Bernie Jones Big Cup Scramble is slated for Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013, at Rolling Meadows Golf Course. More information on the golf tournament can be found at the Bernie Jones Scholarship Fund Big Cup Scramble page on Facebook.
For more information about creating a scholarship or endowment fund at UW-Fond du Lac, contact the Foundation Office at (920) 929-1335. If you are a Bernie Jones Fund scholarship recipient and would like to share your story, please contact UW-Fond du Lac University Relations Director Laurie Krasin at firstname.lastname@example.org.