Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– Park Forest FOCUS offers the Robert Furnace Memorial Scholarship, awarded each June to a graduating high school senior. Furnace was a founding member of Park Forest FOCUS, along with his widow, Dorothy E. Furnace, who still resides in Park Forest.
The 2009 recipient of the scholarship is Ryan M. Rudolf, a graduate of Marian Catholic High School.
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.
A committee appointed by the chairman will review scholarship applications and their recommendations will be voted on by the Scholarship Committee. Scholarship awards are announced in June, and awarded to recipients after graduation.
About Park Forest FOCUS
Park Forest FOCUS is a public policy community-based organization that seeks to serve the interests of all citizens of Park Forest. We believe in the accountability of government officials and staff. In the interest of good government and positive community relations, FOCUS will endeavor to inform residents on matters of importance, register new voters, encourage registered voters to participate, and work to enhance the quality of life of all members of the Village.
FOCUS members have registered thousands of voters.
FOCUS meets monthly on the 3rd Tuesday of the month in Borders in Matteson.