Clemens Foundation discontinues PHS swim scholarships

The Clemens Foundation Board of Directors notified the Philomath School District that it has discontinued its annual scholarships awarded to the top two senior swimmers, Superintendent of Schools Susan Halliday announced during last week’s School Board meeting.

The foundation, established in 1959 by the late Rex and Ethel Clemens, has awarded the four-year tuition scholarships to the top two senior swimmers since 1966. In a letter sent to the school district and signed by the foundation’s board of directors, it was stated that following discussions and much thought, “we have come to the conclusion that the swim scholarships have reached their expiration date.”

“It sounds like there have been some concerns about criteria for being able to select the individuals,” Halliday said at the School Board meeting. “The foundation’s stance that it is best swimmer, best athlete based.”

In the letter, dated Sept. 30, the foundation’s board wrote that “the selections for 2021 were met with concerns from several people, including the foundation’s board.”

According to the foundation board, the athletes were required to fill out a written application, which it said had never been required in the past. Halliday said that she believes over the years with coaches coming and going and with the unavailability of printed materials about how the award should be selected, “the criteria of the scholarship has been lost.”

In the Clemens Foundation letter, the board tried to convey the original intent related to selection criteria.

“Rex Clemens, who he himself never graduated from high school, wanted to start something not based on academics or how many clubs you belong to, but simply by being the best athlete, senior swimmer,” the foundation’s board wrote in the letter. “The recipient would know that all the hours of training, dedication and pushing oneself in practice and meets, would pay off in a scholarship based on hard work!”

Halliday said that once she received the letter, she attempted to reach out to the Clemens Foundation to ask if the board would reconsider.

“Their response to me was ‘thank you but we’ve made our decision,’ which is unfortunate and I will continue to back the Clemens Foundation to be able to look at what we could or should do,” Halliday said.

Halliday added during her School Board meeting comments that she has hopes “sooner than later that we may be able to work out some issues and be able to get this back.”

David Lowther is the foundation board’s president, according to nonprofit organization documents registered with the state.

The Philomath News contacted the Clemens Foundation through its secretary in an attempt to ask follow-up questions about the decision, but received the reply, “My board has decided not to write any additional comments at this time.”


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