• Local Marines present Poillon scholarships

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    The John W. Poillon Memorial Scholarship committee, comprised of top leaders and academic professionals on Fort Leavenworth, awarded $7,000 in scholarships to 11 high school seniors in a ceremony May 16 in the Senator Pat Roberts Room of the Lewis and Clark Center.
    Scholarships ranged from $500 to $1,500. Recipients represented Leavenworth High School, Lansing High School and Pleasant Ridge High School with plans to go to eight different colleges and universities around the country.
    “All of these kids are easily the top 10 percent of their classes,” said Committee President Col. Stephen Lewallen Jr., commanding officer of the Fort Leavenworth Marine Corps Detachment. “Some have multiple volunteer activities. They’re athletes, they’re leaders, student leaders (and) they volunteer out of town. They’ve got great academic achievements and it’s really, really impressive and humbling to read through (their applications).”
    The John. W. Poillon Memorial Scholarship was established in 1965 by his parents, then-Lt. Col. Arthur J. Poillon and Natalie Poillon following John Poillon’s death from an automobile accident on the Centennial Bridge in Leavenworth. At the time, Arthur Poillon was an instructor at the Command and General Staff College. He entered the Marine Corps in 1945 and served 35 years before retiring as a major general in 1980. His wife passed away in 1981 and Maj. Gen. Poillon passed away in December of 2011. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Va.
    “The family’s intent was to provide a tribute to their son as well as an enduring expression of the family’s fondness for the Fort Leavenworth community,” Lewallen said.
    During the past 53 years, nearly a quarter of a million dollars in scholarships has been awarded to more than 270 high school seniors through a grant set up by the family. The Marine Corps Detachment now handles the selection and distribution each year.
    “The family just asked us to continue it so there was a legacy and it wouldn’t get forgotten,” said Lt. Col. Brett Sherman, executive officer of the Marine Corps Detachment. “This place isn’t going anywhere hopefully for a very long time, and since the accident happened here locally they thought it was a great fit.”
    The committee conducts a blind selection based on financial need, scholastic performance, school and civic activities and demonstrated leadership qualities, Lewallen said. The committee strives to select deserving, well-rounded students who exemplify scholarship, leadership and commitment to their communities.
    “You are a group of young men and women that epitomize excellence, represent your generation and our future, and you represent the future of our free nation,” Lewallen said. “I’m sure that the Poillon family will be proud of our selections. Your academic achievements certainly personify what this scholarship is all about.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Lewallen said it was important for the recipients to thank their educators and families.
    “For each one of you, no matter how driven you are, you got a mom, a dad, a grandma, a friend, a teacher,” he said, “someone in your life that made a difference and that’s part of why you’re here so don’t forget to thank them.”
    “Your achievements are no doubt indicative of the encouragement that you received from your parents at home,” Lewallen said. “Without strong family support, it is very difficult to reach this level of accomplishment.”
    Austin Wiley of Leavenworth High School received a $500 scholarship with plans to attend Kansas State University.
    “It helps a lot with making it able to pay for college without having to stress too much about the cost and be able to focus more on what I’m learning,” Wiley said.
    “Never stop learning,” Lewallen told the awardees after presenting them with their scholarships. “There’s a lot out there for you to do. You should continue to feel challenged, but the world is out there and it’s for you to go after. So, continue doing what you’re doing.”
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