More than 5,100 northern Minnesota students aren’t the only ones who have benefitted from scholarships awarded over the past 70 years by the Marshall H. and Nellie Alworth Memorial Fund. All of us have had our lives improved by the advancements many of those students went on to make during their careers.

Four of the earliest such recipients of Alworth Scholarships – a NASA visionary and a medical leader from Duluth, a farsighted educator from Hibbing and a Velcro innovator from Chisholm – will be honored during a 70th anniversary celebration on Thursday, Oct. 24, at the Kitchi Gammi Club.

Educators will be honored as well. The invitation-only event will be attended by northern Minnesota high school teachers and counselors who focus on science and math, the two pursuits for which more than $52 million in Alworth Scholarships have been awarded since 1949.

“The purpose of this milestone anniversary celebration is to thank the dedicated educators who help steer students into these important fields,” said Patty Salo Downs, Executive Director of the Alworth Memorial Fund. “It’s often a word of encouragement that an educator may not even recall that ends up spurring a lifetime of exploration and difference-making. The Alworth Memorial Fund is pleased to help play a role in this.”

The anniversary luncheon’s keynote speaker will be Jim Sponnick, a 1978 Duluth East grad who also graduated from the University of North Dakota.  This Alworth scholar became one of the country’s most accomplished space engineers, working on 184 missions that launched spacecraft to the moon, sun, four planets and more. In 2012, he received the Distinguished Public Service Medal from NASA.

Lifetime Achievement Awards will be presented to three other Alworth Scholarship recipients:

Alve Erickson, PhD, is a 1947 graduate of Chisholm High School (and one of the first Alworth Scholarship recipients, who’s now 90) who taught physics and engineering at MIT. He, along with several colleagues, started an engineering institute in Kanpur, India, where he lived for nearly four years. Erickson later created a new design for Velcro that continues to help protect soldiers and military vehicles.

June Hendrickson, MS Mathematics Education, graduated from Hibbing High School, UMD and the University of Minnesota, then remained in Hibbing as a teacher, school board member and leader for 61 years. She created the Hibbing Academic and Talented (HAT) program, was named Minnesota Teacher of the Year and also was named one of the top 100 people who most influenced Hibbing in the 20th Century.

Bill Jacott, MD, graduated from Duluth Central in 1956, then from the University of Minnesota Med School. During his career he participated on the committee that developed the UMD Med School, was U of MN vice president of health services and helped found UCare Minnesota. He was also a Minnesota delegate to the American Medical Association and served 33 years on the Alworth Memorial Fund Board of Directors.

“Our region has many smart, dedicated students who someday will make many contributions regionally and nationally,” said Eric Norberg, President of the Alworth Memorial Fund Board of Directors. “The generosity of Marshall H. and Nellie Alworth continues to provide higher educational opportunities for many students who otherwise may not be able to further their education.”

Two current Alworth Scholarship recipients will also speak during the luncheon: Gabriella Lott, a 2018 Duluth East graduate and sophomore at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn., where she’s focusing on chemistry pre-med; and Alex Schmies, a 2014 graduate of Hermantown High School and a 2019 graduate from the University of Minnesota, from which he earned a degree in physics, with an emphasis on climate science.

Additional information about the Marshall H. and Nellie Alworth Memorial Fund is at