University of Maine students who are employed at Fogler Library or who want a career working with children and families have received a boost thanks to two new scholarships established by Robert ’57 and Sharon ’60 Ward Fuehrer of Peacham, Vt.
The Robert and Sharon Ward Fuehrer Library Employee Scholarship Fund will provide aid for undergraduate and/or graduate students who work at Fogler Library. First preference is for students who graduated from high schools in Vermont where the couple has lived for nearly 40 years. The Robert and Sharon Ward Fuehrer Scholarship Fund will provide aid for undergraduate and/or graduate students majoring in Child Development and Family Relations or Nutrition Science who are graduates of Maine high schools. First preference is for students from Aroostook County where Sharon grew up in Limestone.
The idea is to help UMaine remain accessible and affordable, said the couple, who recalled their own struggles with finances when they were university students.
“We want to make it easier for students to stay in school,” said Bob, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering and a five-year degree in pulp and paper management. While at UMaine he received Pulp and Paper Foundation scholarships which enabled him to continue with his education.
“That certainly affected my interest in establishing scholarships.”
Sharon, who earned a bachelor’s degree in home economics education with a concentration in dietetics, food and nutrition, said her parents scrimped and saved so she could get an education. “My dad was a potato farmer,” she said. “He and my mother worked hard to send me to college.”
The scholarships established by the Fuehrers will be a boon to many UMaine students, officials said.
“Work in the library benefits both the students and the library,” said Joyce Rumery, dean of libraries. “The students make money to help fund their education and they learn more about the library which helps their education. In addition, they help the library maintain the hours and services that all of the students need.”
O.J. Logue, associate dean of student services, said, “The College of Education and Human Development is extremely grateful for the generosity of Robert and Sharon Fuehrer in creating the college’s newest fund. This gift is especially timely given the financial difficulties in funding one’s higher education.”
The University of Maine prepared them well for their careers and for life after graduation, said the Fuehrers. Bob, who worked in the pulp and paper industry for nearly 40 years, began his career at Spaulding Fibre Company’s mills in New Hampshire. He later became a partner at the consulting firm of Gorham Research in Maine, and then went on to co-found EHV Industries in St. Johnsbury, Vt., which eventually became EHV-Weidmann Industries. Now called Weidmann Electrical Technology, the company has operations throughout the world.
Although the current home economics education program at UMaine is far different than the one in which Sharon participated, she also has fond memories of her classes. “It was a really excellent program,” said Sharon, a stay-at-home mother who was a substitute home economics teacher at local schools.
“There was much more to our UMaine program it than cooking and sewing,” she said. “We learned time and home management and how to budget and be financially prudent.”
Her experience influenced the couple’s four children. “They are all knowledgeable about the economics of savings as well as being great cooks,” she said.
Bob and Sharon have supported UMaine in a variety of ways. In 1994 they established a Pulp and Paper Scholarship in memory of Bob’s uncle, George J. Muller, a self-made man who took Bob on a tour of the university while his nephew was still in high school in New York. After meeting with UMaine professors and then-President Arthur Hauck and learning about the scholarships that the Pulp and Paper Program offered, Bob knew UMaine was the place for him.
“That visit cinched the deal,” he said.
Bob said he and Sharon have come to think of the scholarships they’ve created at UMaine as a team effort. Establishing the scholarship for a student in the Pulp and Paper Program was for him, while the scholarship for a student in Child Development was for her, and the scholarship for a Fogler Library employee was for them both.
“It’s a his, hers, ours sort of approach,” Bob said.
Loyal and dedicated alumni, the Fuehrers have made it a point over the years to attend reunions and Black Bear hockey games. They have remained close to a number of former classmates.
The couple, who met when Bob was a senior and Sharon a freshman, reflect often on the fact that, had it not been for their UMaine experience, they likely never would have gotten together. They will celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2010.
“We really are quite struck with the debt of gratitude we owe UMaine,” said Bob. “We met at UMaine and that meeting has led to a long and happy marriage. We are grateful to the university, not only for our education, but for helping us find each other and build a wonderful life with four great kids, six grandchildren and lots of happy memories.
“We’re both lucky,” he added. “We really got our money’s worth.”