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Dayton Classmates Honor Friend Through Fund
Robert “Bobby” Early lived his life with a can-do attitude, excelling in everything that he put his mind to, including sports, academics and simply being kind to others. The Roosevelt High School class of 1968 (the site of the old Roosevelt high school is now where the Dayton Boys Preportory Academy is located) described him as “one of the best people around.” So it was no surprise when they voted him class vice president.
After graduation, Robert never forgot his class. He went on to plan nine successful class reunions, bringing hundreds of alumni back together and even organizing a golf tournament during the reunions to help the class raise money for Dayton youth.
In 2016, Robert Early passed away from complications due to a previous stroke. To show their appreciation for his hard work and dedication, The Roosevelt High School class of 1968 established the Robert S. Early, Sr., Memorial Youth Scholarship in 2017 through the African-American Community Fund, a component of The Dayton Foundation. Through it the class awards scholarships to African-American students in Montgomery County who participate in baseball, softball or golf.
Ron Sanders, chair of the scholarship and longtime friend to Robert Early, shares why the class decided to honor their friend in this manner.
Tell us more about your high school classmate, Robert Early. What was it that made the class of 1968 want to honor him in this manner?
From the time Bob was a freshman in high school, he was a friend to everyone. He excelled in extracurricular programs, such as The Literary Club and Laurus [National Honor Society], and he was one of only two freshmen to letter on our varsity baseball team. It was no surprise when we voted him student vice president of our class.
After high school, Bob attended Ohio University for two years before coming home to Dayton to start a family with his high school love, Margaret. After graduating from Wright State University, he went on to work for General Motors where he rose to Labor Relations manager. Bob touched many lives in his work life, and he brought that same attitude to organizing our class reunions.
He had a stroke in August of 2013 and fought hard to overcome his many limitations and surgeries that followed, but he passed in March of 2016. The scholarship in his name was a fitting way to keep his memory alive and keep paying it forward and investing in our minority youth.
How will this fund help you help students?
The Robert S. Early, Sr., Memorial Youth Scholarship is awarded to students who exude many of the values that Bob lived by - academic excellence, goal setting, teamwork, a “never give up” attitude, dedication and hard work. So far, the class has awarded scholarships to two Dayton-area students who exemplified those values. Marcus Thompson (2017) has gone on to attend Livingstone College, and Karah Jackson (2018) is attending Tennessee State University. Both students are minorities who show outstanding character and persistence in what they do.
It’s amazing to be able to honor our friend and former class president like this. We recently had our 50th Golden Class Reunion, and we were able to conduct a video interview with one of the recipients to introduce the class to the student who we had selected to receive the scholarship. They were very pleased to see the impact.
Why did the class of 1968 decide to use The Dayton Foundation to support this cause?
I brought the idea to our class Executive Committee, and we set up a meeting with Joe Baldasare and Michelle Lovely of The Dayton Foundation. We liked what we heard!
Just like the Dayton Region, The Dayton Foundation and the African-American Community Fund have such a rich and robust history. Individuals who have made a great impact on our community are continuing to make an impact through their charitable funds, including C.J. Mclin, a 22 year Ohio State Representative, Thyrsa Frazier Svager, a Central State University professor who was one of the first women to receive a Ph.D. in applied mathematics, and Robert and Norma Ross, Dayton’s first African-American Mercedes-Benz dealership owners.
We, too, wanted to leave our mark, and we wanted Bob’s name to go down as another outstanding person to come out of Dayton, Ohio.
What is your goal for this fund?
Our class goal is to reach $25,000 and to continue to give back to the youth of Dayton so that they might have a chance for a better life through higher education. We’ve raised funds with raffles, bowl-a-thon’s and donations from classmates across the country.
What advice can you share about giving to the community?
Never forget where you came from. Help in any way you can. We have a responsibility to help pull a child forward.
How would you complete this sentence, “My giving makes me feel____”?
...like our parents, grandparents and teachers taught us well.
Read more stories about Dayton Foundation donors who were inspired to create a legacy in honor of their loved ones, or to make a difference in their community.
For recent news and updates about The Dayton Foundation, read our press releases online.
IN HIS WORDS
“Towards the end of Cindy’s life, she asked me, ‘After I’m gone, what will there be to say that I was here?’ Establishing this fund was her way to continue reaching out and touching children’s lives, as she did throughout her lifetime.” – John Edgar, donor, on the Remar Family and John and Cindy Edgar Endowment Fund