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Chicago Club's fun raises scholarship funds

  Ann Scholl Boyer  

When Gene DeRoin '49 suggested the Cornell College Club of Chicago (CCCC) sponsor a scholarship aimed at bringing cultural diversity to the campus, his fellow club members not only supported the idea, they got out their wallets.

DeRoin offered up the idea for a minority scholarship at an October 1990 meeting. Char Nelson Renkes '49 reports that at a meeting the following May, the scholarship committee was wondering if it could raise the $1,000 scholarship. One person guaranteed $100; another $50. "Right within the meeting we had $700 pledged," said Ted Renkes '50, Char's husband.

"We wanted to do something besides just having parties," said Ted, who used to head up the scholarship committee along with Char. "We wanted a little purpose.''

Support for the scholarship has never wavered. In fact, supporting the scholarship-which now is $2,000 each year for two students-is even fun. The club's major event and fund-raiser is a winter party, which includes a silent and live auction. The club, which was founded in 1889 and resurrected in 1989, draws from 1,458 Chicago-land alums.

Keith North '60 auctions a platter of first lady Katrina Garner's gourmet cookies, displayed by Chicago Club president Jodi Enger '91, during this year's auction.

Club president Jodi Enger '91 said the club chooses interesting venues to host the party. A couple of years ago, for example, it was held at an art gallery. The entry fee to the party is kept as low as possible to attract more people. The bulk of the money raised comes from the auction. Enger said bids range from $25 to more than $1,000. A variety of items are auctioned, from tickets to the "Jerry Springer Show" to Cornell sweatshirts.

One package that draws some of the highest bids is the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at a Chicago Cubs' game. Alumni Board president Mike Conklin '69, who writes for the Tempo section of the Chicago Tribune, arranges it because the baseball team is owned by the Tribune's parent company.

Last year, Cornell President Les Garner and his wife, Katrina, won the Cubs pitch. They gave it to their eldest son, Brantley, for his 18th birthday. Brantley threw out the pitch at Wrigley Field last June 26. "It was first class all the way," President Garner said.

The Garners also have donated a President's Package, which is dinner for six at their Chicago condo. Other prizes include donations of alums' vacation homes. Social groups at Cornell offer packages of community service hours. The winners of the packages select the projects.

"The auctions are great fun," said Char Renkes, who along with husband Ted has been in on them since the start. "They add so much to the party." Both she and Ted praise the efforts of Keith North '60, who fills in as auctioneer.

Scholarship winner Paul Alexander, a sophomore, also got in on the auction this year by auctioning off service hours donated by student organizations. Junior Le'Ora Tyree is the other scholarship winner.

"When I received the scholarship, I was overjoyed," said Alexander, 19, a sophomore from the south side of Chicago. The college selects the scholarship winners. The first scholarship was awarded in 1992 to Chris Wynton '96.

Enger said seeing the scholarship double has been "amazing."

"We're excited to death things have been going so well. We've had such great success. It's a wonderful opportunity for alums to have more of a personal connection to the students."

Paul Alexander (right) is a current recipient of the Chicago Club minority scholarship initiated by Gene DeRoin '49 (left) 12 years ago.
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