Updated April 4, 2007: Scholarship Deadline Extended to May 1
Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– Park Forest FOCUS announced the immediate availability of applications for the Robert Furnace Memorial Scholarship. Two $500 scholarships will be awarded in the spring to high school seniors who live in Park Forest. Furnace was a founding member of Park Forest FOCUS, along with his widow, Dorothy E. Furnace, who still resides in Park Forest.
Mrs. Furnace was on the FOCUS committee that worked to establish the scholarship. She expressed thoughts on this first offering of the scholarship, which FOCUS plans to grant annually, "The awarding of the first Robert Furnace Memorial Scholarship recognizes two areas that were of great concern to Bob – youth and the community. I am proud of Bob and his work and look forward to helping some youngster meet his or her life’s goals.”
Kevin Headley, treasurer of Park Forest FOCUS, also offered his said, “Bob was very public-minded and very education-minded. We’re happy to award this scholarship.”
The application provides a brief biography of Bob Furnace:
Robert E. “Bobby” Furnace was an educator, a labor activist, and a community leader. Over the 62 years of his life, he was an inspiration to many persons who sat in his classes, negotiated labor agreements under his guidance, or benefited from community programs and projects that he initiated.
Bob attended Prairie State College and Governors State University, eventually earning a master’s degree from the latter as an adult student eager for a career in education. He subsequently taught in Chicago Heights School District 170, where he was president of his local union. His leadership qualities caught the attention of the Illinois Education Association and he later joined the staff of that group as a labor organizer.
In 1998, Bob was elected as a Trustee of the Village of Park Forest. During his three-year term of office, his major area of concern was to increase citizen involvement in government. He personally undertook the mission of recruiting citizens to serve on the Village’s volunteer boards and commissions. As a result of his efforts, more than 100 seats on those bodies were filled and several applicants were on waiting lists for appointment as vacancies might occur.
When citizens contacted Trustee Furnace with their problems, he was quick to respond. He would personally visit with the persons who called him, would personally investigate the nature of their complaints, and would personally seek to find solutions. Bob was a “hands-on” activist who was not content to rely on others to get the job done: he sincerely believed that elected officials who were not part of the solution indeed were part – perhaps even the cause – of the problem.
When Bob Furnace died suddenly on September 6, 2002, it was a heart-breaking loss for his family, his many friends, his former students, and his professional and political colleagues. As one of the eulogists at his memorial service stated, “We are gathered here today, certainly to mourn the loss of our good and dear friend, but also to celebrate a life that was characterized by a warm and charming smile, by an outspoken commitment to fairness and equality, and by a sense of loyalty and friendship that was exemplary.”
Among the requirements, applicants must be a resident of Park Forest, provide the name of the College that they plan to attend and when they will attend, with proof of acceptance, a list and description of non-academic activities and honors, a description of their work experience, their planned major, and planned continuing involvement in community service.
All fully completed applications for the scholarship must be sent to the address at the bottom of the form and postmarked no later than March 31, 2007. The application stresses that no hand-delivered applications will be accepted.
Scholarship awards will be announced at the May 2007 FOCUS meeting, and awarded to recipients upon graduation.
The next meeting of Park Forest FOCUS will be on Tuesday, February 20, at 7:30 p.m. at the Public Safety Building. FOCUS will also host its annual Chili Dinner on Saturday, February 24, from 6 – 8 p.m. in room 8 of the St. Irenaeus Religious Education Center, 78 Cherry St., Park Forest. All are invited.
Applications are available online here in PDF format, here as a MSWord document, or by calling 708-481-6563. Applications will also be sent to high schools that serve the Park Forest area.