Ron Cherry ’53 and Elizabeth “Betty Ann” Cherry inspired their students to be independent thinkers, to find ways to make the world a better place, and to be leaders.
The foundation of the Cherry Leadership Scholarships, now the largest group-funded endowment at Juniata College—over $1 million, is evidence that those lessons were taken to heart.
“It’s an illustration of how, when you get the right people together, great things happen,” said Steve Gillingham ’66, who was a student of both Ron and Betty Ann. “I wanted to give back to the school and to help people. I feel very strongly about education and especially wanted to help those who may not be able to continue their education on their own.”
Ron returned to his alma mater to teach economics in 1958, one year after his marriage to Betty Ann. Betty Ann, whose father, Calvert Ellis ’23, and grandfather, C.C. Ellis, Class of 1898, each served as president of Juniata, began teaching history at Juniata in 1962. Their decades of mentorship touched the lives of countless students.
Ron Cherry passed away in 2000, and in 2005, Steve, along with the late Bill Alexander ’66, Jack Warfield ’66, Jim Lakso, professor emeritus of accounting, economics and business and provost emeritus, and Bud Wise, trustee and and former professor of business, launched the effort to create a scholarship in his honor.
The response from alumni was overwhelming.
“I wasn’t surprised that people really stepped up for Ron,” said Betty Ann. “I received so many notes during his illness and after his death. I have yet to meet with alumni and not hear a new Ron story.”
However, she was surprised by a call she received in 2018.
“All along, we wanted to make a very strong scholarship to honor Ron,” said Steve. “Then, we discussed augmenting the scholarship to honor both Ron and Betty Ann. So many people loved them both, so we knew we could make it even bigger.”
Encouraged by his classmate, Carol Heaton Pletcher ’66, Steve described the way many alumni viewed Betty Ann when the expanded scholarship was officially announced.
“I can’t think of any other person in the last several decades at Juniata, who has held such an enormous influence on Juniatians becoming leaders and developing relationships as Betty Ann.”
With a goal set to fund an endowment over $1 million, Steve, Carol, Jack and others campaigned tirelessly, making calls and reaching out to fellow alumni. The united effort was overwhelmingly successful.
“It blew my mind! When they called me to tell me they had reached the mark, I was flabbergasted,” said Betty Ann. “It’s wonderful. I’m very happy for Juniata. This says a lot about our students, past, present, and future.”