A scholarship created by family members in memory of the late Steven H. Becker, a Western Carolina University employee, has been awarded to the first recipient.
Becker, a WCU information technology staff member, passed away April 13, 2014, in Sylva at the age of 57. Known for his love of WCU, the local mountains and the outdoors, Becker previously had served in the U.S. Army as a Russian translator and Black Hawk helicopter navigator.
The scholarship provides financial assistance to a student majoring in environmental science, with Isaac Hayes, a senior from Murphy, being the initial beneficiary. “I plan on going on to pursue a master’s degree in environmental engineering,” Hayes said. “I plan to focus my engineering degree around water resources. I can definitely say that the scholarship was a tremendous help to me financially this year. Plus, the Becker family was very nice and I enjoyed getting to meet them.”
Becker’s sister, Ellen Allinger of Rock Hill, South Carolina, said the family felt a scholarship aiding a deserving student in environmental science would be the best manner to honor her brother. “Steven was an Eagle Scout and always had an appreciation for nature,” she said. “He loved the spring wildflower walks at the Highlands Biological Station and so many of the outdoor activities Western provides. We think he would be proud of this. And we were gratified to meet Isaac, hear his plans and share in the excitement for his future. I think it helped our mother, who is 90.”
The scholarship award is given to students who have high academic achievement, are involved in promoting sustainability in the WCU community and who have been involved in environmental research. “The Environmental Science Program staff feels the scholarship is a great way to honor the memory of a WCU employee who loved the outdoors,” said Laura DeWald, associate professor and past program director. “It is also a wonderful opportunity for us to support a deserving major who we feel will pursue a career dedicated to promoting sustainable use of environmental resources.”
Beverly Collins is the interim program director and David Henderson will be taking over as director this coming fall semester.
For more information about supporting or creating a scholarship, contact the WCU Office of Development at 828-227-7124 or visit the website give.wcu.edu.
By Geoff Cantrell