A few days ago, my phone rang. It was my father. “Lanny,” he began, “the University of Arizona called me today.” Suddenly my mind raced back in time. My only brother Sean had attended and graduated from the University of Arizona. As a brilliant musician, Sean had received a full-ride scholarship for double-bass. Tragically, on a rainy night shortly following his graduation, Sean was taken from us in a terrible car accident. Predictably, my family was devastated. But during our time of grief, we, my parents and I, were able to generate an idea, an idea to keep Sean’s memory alive. What if we were to create a scholarship in his name?
Following a conversation with a close friend from college about how to go about this, I phoned the university to speak with them about the idea. We discussed the difference between a one-time award and an endowment, which would live on indefinitely, thereby meeting my family’s ultimate goal. Although feeling terrible grief for the loss of my brother, we set to work raising money. My father created 56 pieces of art and had some of the images transferred to greeting cards and t-shirts. We held a benefit where I and some of Portland’s top musicians performed. Friends and family pitched in to help, both logistically and financially. In the end, we raised over $20,000 that we were able to donate to the university. Over the next several years, mostly thanks to the perseverance of my parents, the Sean K. Ball Memorial Scholarship for Bass was awarded to several young musicians.
But over time and through some of our country’s financial hardships, the scholarship seemed to fade. A few years ago, we heard that there was no longer enough money in the endowment to offer an award to any up-and-coming bass student. And with my mom’s passing three years ago, my father and I have not been able to find the energy or interest to pursue the topic any longer.
But a few days ago, my father called. “I heard today that there has been an award made this year,” he said.
“Sean’s scholarship?” I asked incredulously.
“Yes!” he answered. He read me the name of the recipient. “Sean’s scholarship has been awarded this year! I don’t know how much the award is, but his scholarship is going to be helping a young bass player this school year.”
Amidst the current difficult times, I think my dad and I both felt good that day.