Legacy lives on in scholarship

By Carrie Sutton | Mar 07, 2017
Seniors can apply for the Tuscola Class of ’73 Lee McLean Memorial Scholarship Fund through the Haywood County Schools Foundation. McLean, pictured, passed away earlier this year and was a founding member of the scholarship steering committee for the Tuscola Class of '73.

The impact of Clara “Lee” McLean’s life did not end on Jan. 27, 2017 when she passed away.

McLean’s infectious laugh, glowing smile and generous spirit live on in the Tuscola Class of '73 Lee McLean Memorial Scholarship Fund.

In 2013, at Tuscola High School’s class of 1973 40th reunion, the group of alumni, including McLean, decided they wanted to do something to give back to their old high school and its students.

“In planning the 40th reunion, the idea to create a scholarship came about and we decided to promote it to our fellow classmates,” said Rick Webb, '73 class president and scholarship co-chair. “Coming out of the reunion, the scholarship was launched and there was immediate acceptance and excitement.”

McLean, along with Webb, served on the scholarship steering committee since its creation three years ago.

The first year, the committee raised enough money from their classmates to give $1,000 to one graduating female and male from Tuscola.

Webb said each year since, they have continued to raise money to offer the two scholarships every spring at the Haywood County Schools Foundation Partners in Education Scholarship Celebration.

Over the course of three years, the Tuscola Class of '73 Scholarship Fund has assisted six Tuscola seniors attend college. The scholarship fund continues to grow, and Webb said the committee is considering increasing or expanding the scholarships.

Last December, Webb received a call from McLean.

“I thought she was calling me to tell me that she was sending in her annual donation to the scholarship,” Webb said. “Unfortunately, she was calling to tell me that she was gravely ill.”

Webb immediately contacted other members of the scholarship steering committee to share the sad news. The group decided it wanted to honor McLean’s life and contributions by renaming the scholarship in her honor.

“It was clear to all of us that Lee’s involvement in the creation of the scholarship was deserving of special recognition,” Webb said.

Webb drove from his home in Cary to visit with McLean the following weekend.

“During my visit with her, I was able to ask her for her blessing on renaming the scholarship in her honor and ultimate memory,” Webb said. “The scholarship has always been close to her, and she was very happy with our decision to rename it.”

Applications for the Tuscola Class of '73 Lee McLean Memorial Scholarship Fund are now open through the Haywood County Schools Foundation. Tuscola seniors can download an application online at www.hcsf.haywood.k12.nc.us or pick up an application from the guidance center. The deadline to apply is Monday, March 13.

“I think that the class of '73 has done a great job to make this scholarship available, and I know that Lee would be so proud,” Webb said. “We want to give young people a chance to continue their education, and the scholarship is a way for all of us to give back in Lee’s honor.”

In May 2016 at the Foundation’s Partners in Education awards ceremony, 97 high school seniors from Pisgah, Tuscola, Central Haywood, and the Haywood Early College received scholarships totaling $176,450.

The Haywood County Schools Foundation currently manages more than 60 scholarships that have been established by businesses and individuals in the community. Scholarships may be endowed or funded annually. Criteria for awarding the scholarship are designed by the donors and the Foundation Board of Directors. Endowed scholarships are generated through the investment of permanently-held principals, so that only the income from the principal is used for scholarship awards.

For more information about donating to the Tuscola Class of '73 Lee McLean Memorial Scholarship Fund or setting up a scholarship through the Haywood County Schools Foundation, contact Executive Director Jenny Wood Valliere at 828-456-2400 or visit www.hcsf.haywood.k12.nc.us.