If Ken Skiba ‘85 and current senior Alex Sir Louis had met, there’s no doubt they’d be instant friends. That’s just the way it was with Ken, who was a friend to everyone. His unexpected passing in January 2013 had such an impact on those who knew and loved him.
At the second Donors & Scholars event on Saturday, Ken’s family – who created an academic scholarship in his memory – got to meet Alex, a business administration major, a standout baseball player from North Royalton, Ohio and the first student to receive the Kenneth J. Skiba Memorial Scholarship. They instantly hit it off, just like Ken and Alex would have.
“Ken always wanted to help others succeed and he’d go to great lengths to make that happen,” said younger sister Diana (Skiba) Thomas, ’91. Another sister, Marlene Kabat, added, “Ken was always for the underdog. He was the most honorable, giving soul.”
The sixth of eight children, Ken had a huge heart. He was the first in his family to graduate from college. When Alex walks across the stage in May to receive his ‘Berg diploma, he will share that distinction with Ken.
“He really believed in higher education. When he graduated from high school, he worked and saved money for a year to be able to go to Heidelberg,” said Cheryl (Skiba) Bock. “It was because of Ken that Diana came to Heidelberg, too.”
As he became more and more successful in his career, Ken found ways to give back, according to his sisters. That career started as an admission counselor at Heidelberg for two years after graduation. “This is where his career started, and he always kept ties to Heidelberg. It was so close to his heart,” Cheryl said.
Upon their introduction, Alex had one simple and very sincere message for the Skiba family: “I’d just say thank you. It’s an honor” to receive the scholarship, he said.
Students say thanks
Alex was among 22 students who had the opportunity to meet their scholarship donors at the event, and thank them for their generosity. Senior Kevin Scrudders, who has traveled to the American Chemical Society national conference for three years thanks to a student travel endowment created by Joe and Brenda Stearns, represented the students with remarks.
“These conferences have been like the scientific revolution … out with the old and in with the new,” Kevin said. “With the new, came a greater appreciation for the diversity of chemical research and, most importantly, a passion for biological chemistry.
“I was completely unaware of this sub-discipline before this conference. And now, it is the reason I am applying to graduate school. Those conferences transformed my university experience,” he said.
Donors meet a need
Like Ken Skiba and Alex Sir Louis, more than half of Heidelberg students are first-generation college students, and with that demographic comes an increased need for financial support, said Provost Dr. Beth Schwartz. “Most of our students could not be here without your support which leads to life-changing experiences at Heidelberg.”
Through the generosity of donors, new and exciting academic programs are being made available to students. “We continue to examine our academic programs and develop new ones, but the teaching is meaningless without the learner,” Beth said.
Named scholarships “allow students to follow their dreams and you pave the way for their success,” she added.
President Rob Huntington also echoed those sentiments. He was representing his parents, Robert and Ceil Huntington, who created a scholarship for students from Oregon, where they reside, and Washington state.
Rob’s mother, the daughter of immigrant parents, was the first in her family to go to college. “She loves education,” he said, adding that she encouraged him and his two siblings to pursue great educational experiences out of state. Attending the dinner was Hayden Bates, a sophomore from Prineville, Oregon, who is the recipient of the Cecilia Huntington Oregon Scholarship.
“You have handed our students a slice of the advantages life gave to you and now, they are taking advantage of those opportunities,” Rob told the donors. “We appreciate your commitment to our students.”