Scholarship provides funds for ag students

Farmers Advance

DOWAGIAC, MI -- Earlier this year, Southwestern Michigan College Board of Trustees celebrated a $100,000 endowment established by his widow, Nancy, that will fund the George Wuszke Agricultural Memorial Scholarship.

This endowment shall provide scholarships for students enrolled in the Michigan State University Institute of Agricultural Technology.

Recipients must have graduated four years of high school and live within Berrien or Cass County school districts, maintained an overall 3.0 grade-point average while in high school and be enrolled in the MSU Institute of Agricultural Technology at SMC in agricultural operations, fruit and vegetable crop management or landscape management.

Two students will be awarded $1,000 scholarships for 2017-18.

George Edward Wuszke, a lifelong Eau Claire farmer and 1947 Benton Harbor High School graduate, was born May 23, 1929, and died Feb. 21, 2015, at 85.

The Wuszkes grew fruit and vegetables for 35 years, then concentrated on apples and grain.

George belonged to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Sodus, Michigan Farm Bureau and Southwestern Michigan Car Collectors. His 13 vehicles included three DeSotos.

Honorably discharged from the U.S. Army, Mr. Wuszke served as treasurer of the Eau Claire Fruit Exchange Board of Directors.

He was chosen Berrien County’s Outstanding Young Farmer by the Twin Cities Jaycees in 1965.

George’s unrequited dream was to drive his Oliver 44 or Oliver 1655 tractors across the Mackinac Bridge at Labor Day.

“I grew up on a small fruit farm in Berrien Springs, toward Buchanan (Range Line Road). We hoed strawberries with a hoe, not weed killers,” she said. “I was never going to marry a farmer. Mom said, ‘Even if you love him?’ I said, ‘I’ll change him.’ You know how that goes.

“On my 21st birthday in 1958 we got married and started farming on Townhall Road, between Bailey and Old Pipestone. We owned 600 acres at one time and farmed 800. We raised 20 acres of strawberries, plus peaches, pickles, cabbage and tomatoes. We had a few cattle. Twenty years ago we went to all grain and apples. I took the apples out last year.”

From strawberry time in June to the end of apple season in October, she oversaw migrant housing for 75.

The former Nancy Rudell has four brothers and a sister, Diane Skibbe, Cass County Fair treasurer.

The Wuszkes’ two children are Gregory (Karen) Wuszke of Granger, Ind.; and Sherri (Fred) Kramp of Goshen, Ind. There are five grandchildren.

Greg, a CPA, graduated from SMC in 1982 and went on to Central Michigan University for his accounting degree. He works for AM General.

Sherri is a dietitian at Goshen General Hospital.

 “Thirty years ago SMC had its own agriculture program, but it was clear we couldn’t compete with Michigan State. The right way to do that is to partner,” President Dr. David Mathews said.

The SMC/MSU partnership graduated its first class of eight May 6.

“It’s been a very successful program,” Mathews said, “but as I was telling Nancy, the one limiting factor in all of our programs is students’ ability to pay for them, even though our tuition is 40 percent of Michigan State’s. It is an obstacle some students can’t overcome, so we are indebted to anyone who steps up and says, ‘I want to forever help make students’ education possible.’ We brought Nancy here to give you an opportunity to thank her for their commitment, not just to agricultural education and to SMC, but to changing students’ lives.”

The foundation accepts contributions to existing scholarships in addition to establishing new scholarships.

Direct endowment donations to: SMC Foundation, Director of Development, 58900 Cherry Grove Road, Dowagiac, MI 49047.

Contact Eileen Toney at (269) 782-1301 or for more information.