“A Legacy of Giving: The EB Class of ’57 Ron Robison Memorial Scholarship Fund”

In 1957, a group of graduates from East Bakersfield High School bid farewell to their alma mater, never imagining their profound impact on the school’s future 40 years later. This is the heartwarming story of Ron, Ann, Jody, Claude, and Nancy. They established the EB Class of ’57 Scholarship Fund and became its advisors—a journey of reunion, reflection, and the enduring desire to give back.

The Year 1997: A Reunion Sparks an Idea

In 1997, EB Class of ’57 members gathered for their 40th reunion. They toured the EB high school, eager to catch up and see the new developments on campus. During this reunion, the EB grads put out a list of all the ways they could contribute to their alma mater, hoping to make a difference. This included the possibility of giving scholarships to graduating seniors with financial need pursuing higher education.

A Turning Point: The Birth of a Scholarship

A phone conversation between Ron Robison and Ann Gordon Bigler continued the idea of providing a scholarship to EB students. Ron met with Jody Thomason to talk about the vision he and Ann discussed. Ron, Jody, and Ann sent out the first donation letter that year to classmates and asked them to donate to the scholarship fund. This effort raised enough money to start giving scholarships in the spring of that year. This method of raising money continued for many years.

EB classmate Claude Marsh contacted the group and asked about considering a more strategic approach to the scholarship. Instead of sending a check directly to East Bakersfield High School, Claude asked the group to explore donating to a foundation. This decision had clear benefits, as it would protect the funds and enable them to accrue interest—a notion Ron, Ann, and Jody had initially envisioned when founding the scholarship in 1997.

Simultaneously, Ann came across a brochure from Kern Community Foundation. This organization had a proven track record of managing funds for various causes in Kern County, ranging from family scholarships to support for local businesses and community groups. The group met with Foundation executive leaders.

An Idea Grows Wings: Becoming Advisors

Kern Community Foundation offered the EB Class of ’57 Scholarship Fund a unique opportunity to take their vision to the next level. The Foundation’s expertise in fund management and commitment to community initiatives complemented the scholarship fund’s goals, ensuring scholarship provision and financial sustainability.

During a Foundation meeting attended by Jody, Claude, Ann, and Nancy Leonetti Dunn-Reed, they decided that joining the Foundation was the answer to their aspirations. The group established their scholarship fund with the Foundation and became the Fund’s advisors on September 3, 2015.

Sadly, in 2015, just before the EB 55th reunion, Ron Robison passed away. In his memory, the scholarship fund was officially named the “EB Class of ’57 Ron Robison Memorial Scholarship Fund.” This gesture ensured that Ron’s legacy would live on through the scholarship.

The partnership with Kern Community Foundation has been instrumental in the success of the EB Class of ’57 Ron Robison Memorial Scholarship Fund. The Foundation has played a pivotal role in notifying East Bakersfield students about available scholarships, simplifying the application process, selecting the students, and, importantly, mentoring the scholarship recipients to ensure their academic success. The Foundation accepts donations to the EB ’57 Fund via its website or by mailing in checks. Also, it provides financial statements to the Fund advisors and keeps the mailing list up to date for the Class.

A Shared Dream Realized: The Legacy Continues

The advisors of the scholarship fund—Jody, Claude, Nancy, and Ann—have been instrumental in ensuring the fund’s growth and success. With Jody and Claude’s combined expertise in finance and Nancy and Ann’s careers in education and mentoring, the dedication to the cause has kept the dream of providing scholarships to graduating seniors alive. The scholarship’s original goal of “in perpetuity” is well on its way to being realized.

The EB Class of ’57 Ron Robison Memorial Scholarship Fund has inspired other individuals and classes to give back to East Bakersfield High School. The EB grads hope to encourage others to create similar scholarships and educational legacies in their communities. Since the fund began 25 years ago, 80 members of the EB Class of ’57 have contributed to the fund.

The journey of the EB Class of ’57 Ron Robison Memorial Scholarship Fund is a heartwarming tale of reunion, generosity, and an enduring commitment to education. From a 40th reunion tour of EB to establishing the scholarship and becoming advisors to the fund, these EB grads have left an indelible mark on East Bakersfield High School. Their scholarship fund will continue supporting generations of students, ensuring Ron Robison’s legacy and shared commitment to education will continue to live on and inspire others to follow.

Importance of Funds and Using Interest for Scholarships

The suggestion made by Claude to explore a more strategic approach to their contribution by donating to a foundation and the subsequent partnership with Kern Community Foundation highlights the crucial importance of managing funds effectively for long-term scholarship sustainability.

The EB Class of ’57 Scholarship Fund protected the principal amount by entrusting its scholarship funds to a reputable foundation. It enabled the fund to grow through interest accrual. This financial strategy ensures that the scholarship fund can continue to support students with financial needs “in perpetuity.”

The decision to utilize the interest generated by the funds for scholarships demonstrates the wisdom of ensuring the sustainability of the scholarship program. It allows the fund to grow over time, keeping pace with inflation and increasing educational costs, ultimately benefiting more students, and substantially impacting their educational journeys.

In summary, the EB Class of ’57 Ron Robison Memorial Scholarship Fund followed through with their original idea of providing scholarships. The partnership with Kern Community Foundation exemplifies the importance of managing funds wisely when establishing scholarships. By doing so, the EB class of 1957’s legacy of education and generosity endures, positively impacting generations of students. They hope to inspire others to give back. GO BLADES!

Meet the Advisors

From left to right: Claude, Ann, Nancy, and Jody

Jody Thomason was a prominent figure at East Bakersfield High School, where he held the position of Student Body President. In a notable election, Jody showcased his charismatic leadership qualities and won the trust of his peers. Although his family had a deep connection to the world of country western music, Jody chose a career in finance. Known as an “all-around good guy,” Jody’s popularity and approachable nature made him a respected figure at EB. Jody has a successful career as a Certified Financial Planner.

Ann Gordon Bigler was a standout leader at East Bakersfield High School, where she held the position of president of the 700-member Girls League. It organized a multitude of activities for the members, including significant events such as the Big Sister, Little Sister program, formal and informal dances, community outreach programs for youth and senior citizens, and scholarship initiatives that supported the community while providing lifelong organizational skills to the members. Ann continued to make a lasting impact through her long career as an elementary teacher and as a community volunteer in the arts, sports, and education.

Nancy Leonetti Dunn-Reed was an exemplary leader during her time at East Bakersfield High School. She was actively engaged in various school activities, including serving as the President of the Junior Statesmen of America. The Junior Statesmen of America is a nationwide organization for the promotion of interest among high school youth in student government, politics, and community problems. Nancy was known for her leadership qualities and enthusiastic participation in numerous EB events. Nancy’s lifelong commitment to teaching and mentoring student-teachers has significantly impacted countless students’ academic and personal growth. Nancy’s picture can be found on the Hall of Fame wall at the Bakersfield City School District.

Claude Marsh has built a remarkable legacy as a financial expert and dedicated community supporter. His journey, which began in high school, continued through his career as a firefighter, and ultimately led to his success as a Licensed Financial Representative, clearly demonstrating his commitment to excellence. Claude has helped to ensure that East Bakersfield students have the resources needed to succeed.

Ron Robison was a dynamic leader during his time at East Bakersfield High School. As the junior and senior class president, he displayed exceptional leadership qualities. His dedication extended beyond academics; Ron stood out in both the academic and extracurricular spheres. Ron was a trumpet player and, notably, served as the president of the band and orchestra. Additionally, he was the band drum major and a member of the EB dance band. His involvement wasn’t limited to music; Ron also ventured into sports, playing basketball. Following graduation from EB, Ron received a BS in Mathematics from BYU and an MA in Business Administration from UCLA. His business career included positions at Shareholders Capital Corp., Ernst and Whinney, Trust Company of the West, and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. His career concluded in NYC as President of Morgan Stanley Mutual Funds and Van Kampen Mutual Funds. Ron’s well-roundedness and excellence in academics and activities left an indelible mark on East Bakersfield High School.

The story of Ron Robison and the four advisors demonstrates the power of education, mentorship, and giving back, serving as an inspiring example for East Bakersfield and beyond. GO BLADES!

To Donate

Check should be payable to:

Mail to:
5701 Truxtun Ave Suite 110, Bakersfield, CA 93301

For any questions please call 661-325-5346 or email: info@kernfoundation.org