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William and Mildred Lehman

With the help of Bill Sitterley, William and Mildred Lehman established a scholarship that benefits students from Hocking and Fairfield Counties.

Photo courtesy of: Bill and Sally Sitterley

Tyler Zwahlen

Tyler Zwahlen, the 2013-16 Lehman Scholarship recipient, earned his bachelor's in pre-professional biology from OHIO on April 30.

Photo courtesy of: Bill and Sally Sitterley

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Sitterley trusts directed to Ohio University will support scholarships for Fairfield and Hocking County students

Four charitable trusts created by Fairfield and Hocking County families – collectively totaling more than $5.1 million – are now held within The Ohio University Foundation’s endowment. Trustee William J. Sitterley, a principal member at Sitterley, Vandervoort, and Davis in Lancaster, Ohio, and his wife Sally, trust administrator, recently transferred the trusts to The Foundation to provide Fairfield and Hocking County students attending Ohio University with scholarships, as well as to continue these families’ legacies into perpetuity.

“This is an incredible and significant gift that will benefit generations of future Bobcats, and we are so very grateful for their support,” said OHIO President Roderick J. McDavis. “Thanks to the generosity of these families, lives will be transformed through an Ohio University education. The commitment these families have shown to students and to the pursuit of a college education also will have perpetual influence in their local communities. It is always humbling to witness the impact our vast network of OHIO alumni and friends has in shaping the future, but this gift directly shapes the futures of OHIO’s students, and, for that, we are appreciative to all involved.”

Sitterley, who served as a trustee of The Ohio University Foundation from 1990-99, had held these funds in trust for decades, distributing nearly $2.9 million in scholarship support that has helped hundreds of local students earn college degrees. Students each received an average of $5,000 in scholarship support annually. With the transfer of the funds to The Foundation, local students will continue to have access to these scholarships when they choose to attend any of Ohio University’s campuses.

“The Sitterleys have helped make education possible for many students from Fairfield and Hocking Counties, and I am pleased Ohio University will continue to award these scholarships through The Foundation,” said Jim Smith, dean of OHIO’s Lancaster Campus. “The donors and the Sitterleys managing the trusts recognize the importance of higher education as well as of easing the associated financial challenges for local students. Historically, these funds have greatly reduced or eliminated out-of-pocket costs for students attending Ohio University Lancaster Pickerington. That approach will still be possible for area students to help us fulfill our mission of affordable and accessible education for all.”

Each of the four trusts has its own story and celebrates a family’s connection to the region and to its future.

Siblings Paul Bader and Ruth Bader lived in Liberty Township on a family farm near Baltimore, Ohio. Paul Bader worked as a field representative for the ASC (state agricultural) office and for the DeKalb Company. Ruth Bader worked as a chef at Shaw’s Restaurant & Inn in Lancaster, Ohio. Neither married. They chose to use the bulk of their estates to establish the Paul I. Bader and Ruth E. Bader Scholarship to benefit students from Liberty Union High School. According to trust documents both “believed strongly that education opened the doors of opportunity for young people.”

Mildred Herzberger and her husband, Carl, a career officer in the U.S. Army, lived a frugal life. They spent years stationed in Germany with their beloved German shepherd and a pet deer. Widowed and without children, Mildred Herzberger decided to dedicate a large portion of her estate to create the Mildred L. Herzberger Scholarship. The scholarship, according to trust documents, promotes the “education and welfare of the residents of Fairfield County.”

Alice Kindler was a master teacher who taught piano to countless Fairfield County children. Herself an accomplished pianist, she played in New York’s Carnegie Hall as a young woman. She never married and chose to leave the bulk of her estate to create the Alice Kindler Scholarship to support Fairfield County students. The scholarship benefits future generations of students “so that they may contribute to the community and improve the quality of their lives,” according to trust documents.

William C. and Mildred K. Lehman were born and raised in Hocking County and married in 1963. Neither had the opportunity to attend college. William Lehman began work as an electrician and spent most of his career as a route driver for 7-Up. Mildred Lehman worked for Travelers Insurance and Pharmacia Corp. The Lehman’s had no children and “left most of their estate to help young people improve their lives through higher education,” according to trust documents. They established the William C. and Mildred K. Lehman Scholarship to support Hocking and Fairfield County students.

Tyler Zwahlen earned the Lehman scholarship from 2013-16. In an email interview he recalled visiting the Sitterleys’ home to interview for the scholarship and said “they devoted many hours during this process… After the interview, I thanked them and hoped for the best. I thought to myself ‘I will make you proud if I am awarded the scholarship.’”

Zwahlen feels connected to the Lehmans, who were born and raised in the same county as his grandmother. “William was an electrician, and I come from a family of electricians including my great grandfather, grandfather, dad, and my two uncles,” he said. “If I could sit down and have conservation with (William Lehman), I would tell him how thankful I was that he wanted to help young people improve their lives through higher education.”

A recent OHIO graduate, Zwahlen earned his bachelor’s in pre-professional biology summa cum laude on April 30. He describes walking across the commencement stage as his best OHIO moment. “I felt proud that my family was there to share this accomplishment with me.”

Currently enrolled in the master of physician assistant practice program on the University’s Dublin Campus, he said “It is my ultimate goal to be able to give back to the community in which I have lived all my life. Receiving this scholarship was such a blessing, and I am forever grateful that I was chosen.”

The idea to serve as trustee and to administer scholarships independently came naturally to the Sitterleys. Bill Sitterley’s father Kermit Charles Sitterley served as the sole trustee of the Charles Kilburger Trust and selected 648 students between 1970 and 1989 to receive college scholarships. That trust was turned over to The Ohio University Foundation in 1989 and continues to provide scholarships to Fairfield County students attending OHIO.

“The trusts we’ve stewarded over the years have provided the single largest source of scholarship support for students in the county,” said Bill Sitterley. “This unique effort to operate and distribute the trusts ourselves has allowed us to provide the community with real examples, to show people that ‘you can do this.’ All of these donors wanted to be part of something special and to provide a lot of people the chance to earn a college education. Sally and I are proud to have helped them do that.”

Scholarships housed within The Ohio University Foundation are awarded to students who show academic merit and to those who have financial need. On average about 4,000 Athens campus undergraduate students apply for scholarship funding each year and approximately 24 percent of them receive scholarship support. The Foundation’s endowed scholarships have made awards totaling $3.3 million and supporting 1,500 students each year for the past eight years.

“Scholarship endowments leave lasting legacies,” said Vice President for University Advancement and President and CEO of The Ohio University Foundation J. Bryan Benchoff. “Endowment resources are carefully invested in order to make funds available year after year in perpetuity. The result is financial support that helps students realize their dreams of a higher education. These endowments continue to grow over time and will meet future needs and provide for the next generation of OHIO students.”

The Ohio University Foundation is the repository for all private gifts through annual giving programs, capital, and special campaigns and planned or deferred gifts. The Foundation is an institutionally related, non-profit, tax-exempt, 501c(3) organization. Each year, more than 25,000 alumni and friends make gifts to the Foundation to support students, faculty research and creative activity, innovative programs, select capital projects, and community partnerships.