Austin Amateur Radio Fund
Keeping Austin Wireless and Educated
ACF AND THE AUSTIN AMATEUR RADIO CLUB ENABLE SEND KIDS TO COLLEGE THROUGH SCHOLARSHIPS.
In today’s Internet world of email, Facebook and instant messaging, ham radio may seem a quaint, outdated hobby. Yet it is alive and well in Austin, and has been since 1919; the Austin Amateur Radio Club was chartered in December of that year, just after ham radio was allowed back on the air after being shut down during World War I. It’s not only a fun and interesting skill, but also of vital importance during natural disasters and other emergencies.
Jesse Copeland was a longtime, active member of the Austin Amateur Radio Club (AARC). He and his wife had no children, and so they bequeathed their entire, sizable estate to AARC in their wills.
AARC board member Stuart Rohre says that the club did not know what the Copeland’s preferences were for the money, and no restrictions were imposed as to how the funds might be used.
“The idea came up to promote Amateur Radio among students through a Scholarship,” Rohre says. To be eligible, Austin-area applicants must obtain their FCC Amateur Radio License by passing a standardized exam on the topic of radio theory and operating rules.
The scholarship is also based on the applicant’s involvement in local amateur radio activities, such as clubs and emergency communications. The scholarships would provide tuition and textbook money for college and recognized vocational schools.
It was a terrific idea – and one that only had one downside. None of the AARC members had the knowledge or desire to manage the fund. “We all were amateur radio operators and hobbyists, with little time and knowledge of how to manage such a large investment, says Rohre. “Especially, we wanted to avoid getting into tax consequences of investing the bequest.”
Jim McNeely, club president at the time, knew about Austin Community Foundation and looked into aligning with ACF to manage the scholarship fund. “We hoped that the fund investment could grow, and that we could manage it with the least amount of worry to the officers and members of the organization.”
In addition to administering the fund itself, ACF has also publicized the scholarships to secondary schools and higher education institutions throughout the Greater Austin target area. Rohre particularly appreciates the support of ACF staff, which he calls “outstanding.”
“[It] has been very rewarding to know we are giving out money that makes college possible for students who might otherwise have difficulty with continuing education,” he says. “It is rewarding to hear of the good careers that former scholars have entered as a result of Copeland Fund support.”
In fact, the fund gives out one of the largest total amounts in scholarships, even compared to several national amateur radio scholarship programs. Rohre estimates that since its inception in 1993, the fund has given over a quarter of a million dollars in scholarships.
In addition to the amateur radio requirements, applicants must also have a good grade point average and be making progress toward a degree. Only annual earnings are used for the scholarships, to protect the fund principal, and so the fund grants conservatively. Scholars must reapply each year, requalifying and competing against new applicants.
Rohre reports, “We have supported quite generously a double-major person who is now about to finish Medical School. We have supported several new engineers, an environmental science-pre law major, and many other medical, technical, and general degrees, as well as some persons going to vocational trade schools.” There is no restriction on choice of major, but an applicant’s major is evaluated against the other applications each year.
“I hope, and think, that Jesse Copeland and his wife would approve of what we have done with their gift,” Rohre says.