Descendants of mill workers, Jeanette and Gene Craig were the first in their families to graduate from college. That enabled them to become dedicated educators with a combined 70 years of service in the Muscogee County School District before they retired in 1995. Now, thanks to the Craig family’s generosity, more folks have the chance to pursue higher education.
The Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley announced during a news conference Tuesday the establishment of the Jeanette Williamson Craig & Eugene L. Craig Scholarship Fund.
Starting in spring 2017, the Craig Scholarship will be awarded to a high school senior residing in Columbus who demonstrates financial need, high character and average or better scholastic merit. The winner will receive $5,000 annually for as many as four years, as long as the student maintains continuous full-time enrollment and at least a 2.5 GPA.
“We feel like this scholarship will afford a worthy student the opportunity to go to college, (someone) that would possibly not in any other way have been able to do so,” Gene said.
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The Craig family, including son, Mike Craig, and daughter, Sharon Craig White, was inspired to set up this scholarship when they read the Ledger-Enquirer’s story in April about the ninth recipient of the James Henry Smith and Gladys Manning Smith Scholarship, which the foundation administers as well. The Smith Scholarship awards as much as $7,200 annually to a high school senior residing in Columbus who demonstrates financial need and academic achievement.
And when Jeanette died that month, the Craig family decided forming this fund would be the best way to honor her memory and Gene’s legacy.
“We are here to help good people make our community better,” said foundation President and CEO Betsy Covington, who noted the Craig Fund welcomes other donors to make contributions.
In its 18 years, the foundation has awarded more than $125 million in grants on behalf of its contributors, Covington said. It holds more than $120 million in assets across approximately 260 donor funds, she said.
Jeanette was secretary for the president of the Sol Loeb Company before becoming a teacher and media specialist for 25 years at elementary schools Davis, Double Churches and Northside, now called Allen.
Gene taught at his alma mater, Jordan Vocational High School, and was the assistant principal of Reese Road Elementary, then led Waddell Elementary as principal for 29 years. He is a former member of the executive committee of the Muscogee County Principals Association and the Muscogee Educators Association and was president of the Muscogee County Retired Educators Association.
“No telling how many doors those two opened for students in our community,” Covington said. “And now through the scholarship, doors will be opened continually. Their hope is that this will be a permanently endowed scholarship that will benefit students in Muscogee County forever.”
The slogan for the scholarship is “Sewing a Love for Learning.” To show it, the Craig family presented Jeanette’s 1890 Singer sewing machine as a gift to the foundation, which will keep it on display and attach a plaque to inscribe the names of the Craig Scholarship recipients.
Gene thanked the foundation for its “kindness” in helping his family establish the scholarship fund.
“Our family is very happy to be able to do this for the community,” he said. “We hope it will be very meaningful for the worthy students that need the help.”
How to apply or donate
Applications for the Craig and Smith scholarships will be available in early 2017 at www.cfcv.com, according to the news release from the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley. To make a donation, call the foundation at 706-320-0067.