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$2.4 million gift will help Suring and Gillett grads

Two farm kids from northeast Wisconsin who worked hard to succeed at their careers have left behind a $2.4 million gift to a Shawano Area Community Foundation (SACF) charitable fund that, by 2019, will be awarding $100,000 a year in college scholarships to six Gillett High School graduates and five from Suring High School.

Kenneth and Loraine Dittman. Pictured above: Loraine

Loraine Dittman established a permanent endowment with SACF in 2007, putting in place a giving plan that the couple, who had no children, had decided on after attending a financial planning seminar. Kenneth died in 2001. Their fund has been providing smaller scholarships over the past decade. With Loraine’s passing at age 82 in 2015, a bequest sent $2,357,000 to the Kenneth C. Dittman and Loraine M. Dittman Scholarship Fund at SACF, a regional affiliate of the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region. Char Larsen chairs the SACF board.

“We are pleased to present this generous gift from the Dittmans to the Gillett and Suring schools,” Larsen said. “The scholarships create a huge opportunity for these communities to help students realize their dreams and enhance their futures.”

The money will be invested by the Community Foundation so that the principal grows steadily while also providing a permanent asset source for scholarships to be awarded to students at the two schools in the Dittmans’ names. The couple directed that 60% of the fund’s proceeds support scholarships in Gillett and 40% in Suring. Gillett High School’s total enrollment for all four grades is 156. Suring’s four-year high school has 119 total students.

Kenneth grew up in Gillett and then worked nights scrubbing brewery tanks in Milwaukee to pay his way through the Milwaukee School of Engineering. Loraine, who grew up in Colby, helped pay her nursing school expenses by babysitting. He earned an electrical engineering degree and worked for several companies. She became a hospital nurse and nurse anesthetist. In retirement, they lived in Kenneth’s family home in Gillett. Following Kenneth’s death, Loraine moved to Appleton.

Starting in spring of 2018 at Gillett High School, the fund will award three one-time $4,000 scholarships to students attending four-year colleges and two $3,000 scholarships to students at two- or four-year colleges. In 2019, that will grow to four students each potentially receiving $12,000 in scholarships over four years of college and two getting $6,000 for two years, for a total of $60,000 awarded per year.

In Suring, two graduates will be awarded one-time scholarships of $3,000 and four of $1,500 this coming spring. In 2019, the fund will award scholarships of $10,000 over four years to three graduates and $5,000 over two years to two graduates. That will total $40,000 awarded per year.

“We are excited and extremely thankful to have additional scholarship opportunities of this magnitude available for our students,” Gillett Supt. Todd Carlson said. “There is no doubt that Kenneth and Loraine Dittman will have a huge impact on the lives of numerous students who may not have had this opportunity without their thoughtful and generous help.”

“The Dittmans’ generous donation to post-secondary education will open the doors to many students in our building who may never have thought that they could broaden their academic horizon,” said Kelly Casper, district administrator in Suring. “These scholarships will give students the opportunity to pursue their educational dreams and goals. The criteria set forth by the Dittmans will challenge the students within each graduating class to be the best they can be and to dream big!”

Eligibility requirements for the scholarships to be administered by both schools call for graduating seniors attending a four-year college or two-year college or technical college with:

  • Financial need.
  • A history of community involvement.
  • Minimum 3.0 GPA in the last two semesters, or 2.5 GPA for students planning to attend technical college.

The high schools will each select their recipients. Information and applications are available through their guidance offices.

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Oconto County Times-Herald

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4 Responses to $2.4 million gift will help Suring and Gillett grads

  • Bob Ellis says:

    This is such a wonderful story, and a pure reflection of selfless generosity. The impact the Dittmans’ gift will have on the educational opportunities for generations Gillett and Suring High School students is truly amazing! Congratulations to all!

    1. Tammy Williams says:

      We agree, Bob! An incredible gift for those communities.

  • Lisa Thiede says:

    What a legacy to leave the community! Inspiring.

    1. Tammy Williams says:

      Inspiring indeed, Lisa. So exciting!

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