Friday evening, June 9, the Rotary Club of Westfield Foundation awarded $94,450 in scholarships to 16 students. Since 1967 the Rotary has awarded over $3.4 million dollars in scholarships to approximately 1800 students.
Carl Peer, Esq is the chair of the Rotary Club Foundation Scholarship Committee, He complimented the outstanding caliber of the student applicants. Carl reviewed the three requirements to receive a Rotary scholarship: a strong Academic background to demonstrate future success in college; Financial need; and Service to the community.
The Rotary Club Scholarship Committee includes: Chair Carl Peer; Mary Ellen O’Boyle, who has served on this committee for 27 years; Rotary Club President Tony LaPorta; Deirdre Gelinne; and Chung Kun Shih. Superintendent Ray Gonzalez is a Rotarian and was present to make comments and congratulate the students. Deirdre Gelinne was the Master of Ceremonies. Club President Tony LaPorta made a few remarks to explain what Rotary is and the projects we do.
Speakers included Dr. Raymond Gonzales, Rotarian and Superintendent of Schools. Bob John representing the Westfield Foundation gave a summary of the Foundations role. The Rotary Club Foundation has funds invested in the Westfield Foundation, plus we administer some scholarships for them. Rotarian Chung Kun Shih was the photographer. Glenn Biren was present. He was presenting a new Engineering Scholarship of $2,500 to honor the memory of his father Jay Biren, who was a long time Rotarian. Emma Davis Herbert was the recipient of the Read Law Scholarship. She gave an inspiring and hopeful talk to the students about what to expect in college.
Students receiving scholarships with the colleges attending, amounts and names of scholarships are:
Quetzal Araya; Penn State; $5,000; Sturcke
Abigail Bebel; Lafayette College; $2,500; Sturcke
Ryan Bertsch; University of Michigan; $2,500; Sturcke
Jessica Borenstein; Binghamton University; $3,000; Nancy Jackson/Rotary
Gabriel John Dayon; Montclair State University; $5,000; Gerdes       
Mason R. Gibbs; Ithaca College; $3,000; Sturcke
Juan-Diego Lara; University of Chicago; $5,000; Read Law
Meryl Li; Northwestern University; $15,000; Wallace
Olivia Mazzola; Emerson; $5,000; Sturcke
Phineas Mindak; University of Pittsburgh; $2,500; Biren Engineering
Sophia Narciso; James Madison; University; $5,000; Wallace
Brigham Luna Santamaria; Brigham Young University; $15,000; Wallace
Jonathan Scalia; Rutgers University; $2,500; Sturcke
Tristan Wroe; Stephens Institute of Technology; $3,450; Pollack      
Emma Davis Herber; William & Mary; $10,000; Read Law
Daniel Scalia; Rutgers University; $10,000; Read Health
The history of the Westfield Rotary Club supporting students is as follows. The club was founded in 1921, and shortly afterwards, Mabel Douglas spoke to the club about the value of educating women. She helped start, and was Dean of Douglass Women’s College, which was named after her. From 1923 through 1944 the club made 400 loans to students. When the US entered WWII, everyone went to war, and applications for loans stopped, so the program ceased. After the war, the GI bill educated 8 million returning veterans for free. After the GI Bill program ceased in 1956, the Rotary Club started the program up again, but switched the programs from loans to scholarships. In 1967 the club started its iconic fundraiser “Pancake Day”, now called “Breakfast with the Bands”, which is held every March at the High School. The revenues from this fundraiser go to scholarships.
In addition to the fundraisers, the club Foundation has received donations from 15 major donors. The Rotary Foundation account has approximately $2 million dollars and is invested judiciously through the professional stewardship of the Westfield Foundation. In addition to these two sources of income, the Rotary Club administers several scholarships for the Westfield Foundation. In 1971 Mr. Wallace asked the Rotary to administer Scholarships for his estate. At that time, Rutgers tuition for a full year was $500, so the club issued 10 full year scholarships to Rutgers with the Wallace Funds. The Wallace Pool at the Westfield Y was donated by him. This year Wallace scholarships worth $35,000 were awarded. The Rotary Foundation also administers the Pollack Scholarship Fund, started in 1991, which is invested separately through Wells Fargo. In 2005, long time Rotarian Harry Sturcke donated $600,000 to the Rotary Club Foundation for the purpose of scholarships and community grants. Other funds administered by Rotary and invested in the Westfield Foundation include the Gerdes funds, Read Law and Read Health Scholarships. Chester Gerdes was a long time Rotarian. Bob Read was also a long time Rotarian and was chair of the Rotary scholarship committee for many years.
Rotary is a group of successful business men and women who want to give back to the community. Its primarily focus is to be a Service club, but also includes some business networking. The Rotary Club of Westfield is 102 years old. The main projects this year were to help homeless veterans, to feed the “food insecure” in town, and to help the St. Joe’s Soup Kitchen in Elizbeth. International projects include collecting bicycles for the third world; building and supplying a medical clinic in Nigeria; and collecting books for the same Nigerian town, and providing dialysis machines in India.
During the Covid Pandemic many Rotarians volunteered to help, either administering the vaccine, or delivering food to help the front-line health care workers. We also obtained $130,000 in grants to purchase 10 ventilators for area hospitals. Rotary International is in 168 countries, with 1.4 million members. Tony pointed out that when someone sees a problem and says “someone ought to do something about that,” Rotary is the group that does it. We are “People of Action”.
The Rotary Club of Westfield meets the first three Tuesdays of each month for lunch at noon, at Limani Seafood Grill on North Ave. Guests are always welcome. For information check out the website  or contact club secretary Dr. D. Michael Hart by email at
Front row left to right: Rotary President Tony LaPorta, Emma Herber, Juan-Diego Lara, Jonathan Scalia, Daniel Scalia, Meryl Li, Tristan Wroe, Brigham Santamaria, Rotarian Mary Ellen O'Boyle
Back row left to right: Scholarship Committee Chair Carl Peer, Rotarian and Photographer Chung Kun Shih, Phineas Mindak, Gabriel Dayon, Mason Gibbs, Abigail Bebel, Sophia Narcisco, Jessica Borenstein, Ryan Bertsch, Rotarian Master of Ceremonies Deirdre Gelinne.
Not pictured: Quetzal Araya, Olivia Mazzola
Photo credit goes to Rotarian Chung Kun Shih, an award-winning photographer.