Diesel students receive tool gifts in honor of past graduate

Mar 6, 2020 | 1:03 PM

Although February 21st started out as any other Friday, the Alexandria Technical & Community College (ATCC) Diesel Mechanics students knew there was a special ceremony planned for 9 AM. All 81 students waited in anticipation to meet a generous donor who, they were told, would impact the lives of five second-year students.

Dean Schenk, a 1971 ATCC Diesel graduate, passed away in September of 2017. To honor his memory, his wife, Karen Schenk, established the Dean Schenk Memorial Scholarship with the ATCC Foundation. This legacy gift in Dean’s name offers an annual scholarship to a student in the second year of training.

Feeling called to do more, and because Dean loved his tools, Karen made a generous contribution to fund a “tool” scholarship in his memory. Five lucky students would be the recipient of a useful and expensive torque wrench valued at $1,000 to take with them as they begin their career.

Karen said “We set up this tool fund to help you going out into the world. It’s what Dean would have been so proud to do, helping others. So be proud of what you learned here at Alex Tech, and be proud of what you do the rest of your life, whether it’s diesel mechanics or something else. Love life, and always do your best. Being proud of what you do equals being proud of your life.”

After Karen shared her story with the students, it was time to learn who would be leaving that day with a special tool. The students were asked to record what they would say to a donor upon receiving a gift. To announce the five recipients, a video clip of each student was played. Jared Olson was awarded both the memorial scholarship and the tool gift. He said in his clip, “I’d have to thank [Karen] twice, not only for this opportunity, but also for the scholarship. I’d like to tell her that I think it’s a great thing, what she’s doing.”

One by one, as their face appeared on the screen, five students came forward to thank and hug Karen. Giving these engraved tools in honor of her husband allows Karen to continue Dean’s generous spirit of helping others.  

Retired instructor Dave Steussy also gave a brief history of the Diesel Mechanics program, showing the tremendous changes that have occurred both in the program and on campus over the years. He shared some important life lessons he felt would help the students have a successful career.

Karen’s connection to the ATCC Diesel Mechanics program has come full circle. What started out as love for one of the college’s graduates has now turned into a legacy for the mechanic who left her too soon.

Recipients included: Jared Olson from Barrett, Dylan Colbert from Westbrook, Logan Wagenius from Gaylord, Ethan Schurter from Big Lake, and Derrek Schmidt from Glencoe.

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