Rural California Bank Supports Local College Students A hometown bank in a rural California county awards a cash scholarship to high school graduates who attend the region's junior college. In the nearly 60 years since it started the program, Exchange Bank has awarded more than 100,000 scholarships so far.
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Rural California Bank Supports Local College Students

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Rural California Bank Supports Local College Students

Rural California Bank Supports Local College Students

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And now here's a story of how one person can make a difference. In a northern California town, one man wanted to make it possible for anyone who wanted to go to the local junior college to do so. He created a scholarship fund. And today, 60 years later, his legacy is an entire community of Doyle Scholarship recipients. From Santa Rosa, California, Nancy Mullane reports.

NANCY MULLANE: The bell is just about to ring, signaling the end of second period at Santa Rosa High School. But before teacher Terry Swehla dismisses her American government class, she asks a question.

Ms. TERRY SWEHLA (Teacher, Santa Rosa High School): Okay, ladies and gentleman, who can tell me about the Doyle Scholarship? Okay. Some rich guy left a lot of money, and, his name was Frank Doyle. And he decided that he wanted to make sure that students had the access to enough money to enable to go to college.

MULLANE: The students have stopped talking. All eyes are on Swehla. Both of her daughters attended Santa Rosa Junior College on Doyle scholarships. She tells her students about the free money, up to $2,000 a year, for anyone who attends the college full-time.

(Soundbite of school bell)

MULLANE: The Doyle Scholarship began with a tragedy. In 1921, Frank Doyle's young son died in surgery. As a result, Doyle spent much of the rest of his life helping out local young people by building up the community's junior college. Then in 1948, as part of his last will and testament, Doyle placed his controlling interests in the Santa Rosa Exchange Bank in a perpetual charitable trust, the dividends to be distributed to worthy young men and women attending the college.

Mr. BARRIE GRAHAM (President and CEO, Exchange Bank): This guy, Frank Doyle, was truly a visionary leader.

MULLANE: Barrie Graham is president and CEO of the Exchange Bank.

Mr. GRAHAM: We're a for-profit bank. But it means when we're profitable, and we've been profitable for 116 years, that money goes directly to a community benefit. And we're now into our third generation of families that have gotten Doyle scholarships.

(Soundbite of sprinklers)

Unidentified Woman: He like, yes. You've got to smile now.

MULLANE: Walking around Santa Rosa Junior College, it looks more like a mini- Ivy League University than a small town JC. Old brick buildings with etched names above the stone steps line the pathways. Trees planted ages ago create a canopy of dappled sunlight across the park-like campus. Sitting on a wooden bench at the end of wide commons is Amber Larson. She's a pre-med science major and the 100,000th recipient of a Doyle.

Ms. AMBER LARSON (Doyle Scholar): It's helped so many people out. It's - my mom had gotten the Doyle scholarship, and we think my grandma did.

MULLANE: Larson says she'd probably have a tough time attending college without the Doyle. Every year, the Exchange Bank cuts a check directly to the Santa Rosa Junior College Scholarship Office. This year, it's for more than $5 million, and will go to 5,500 scholars. Sherry Arndt(ph) manages the College's Scholarship Office, and says she can't imagine the college or the town without the Doyle.

Ms. SHERRY ARNDT (Santa Rosa Junior College Scholarship Office): It's a wonderful gift. A wonderful community gift from someone who just thought a great deal of his community.

MULLANE: Over the past six decades, the bank has given out $72 million to 100,000 Doyle scholars. The deadline to apply for the next academic year is March 1st. For NPR News, I'm Nancy Mullane.

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