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Scholarship Series: Remembering Frank H. Samuelson through adult continuing education

Editor’s note: Each week, the Courier will be taking a look at local scholarships and the people they are named for.

By Sandi Scannelli
Clemmons Community Foundation

The Clemmons Community Foundation created a community scholarship fund to allow for one-time gifts to assist youth or adult students with the cost of continuing education. With significant gifts, donors then have the opportunity to name the scholarship in that one year.

This year, a group of individuals and community organizations pooled contributions to create the first-named adult community scholarship to be awarded in memory of longtime Clemmons resident, Frank Samuelson, who passed away Dec. 6, 2020. Samuelson had a long career after graduating from college, ranging from military service in the U.S. Air Force to corporate work in designing complex computer solutions. He and his wife, Barbara, were married 54 years, raised three children (Carol, Frank and Cheryl), and celebrated five grandchildren. During retirement, he served as an adjunct professor, teaching computer courses at Forsyth Technical Community College and Winston-Salem State University.

Barbara described Samuelson’s commitment to service: “Any group Frank worked with, you could always hear him ask, ‘What can I do to help?’ ” Cheryl Bowers, Samuelson’s daughter, remarked, “My father never knew a stranger. He would strike up a conversation with anyone.” Robert Bowers (son-in-law) concurred and added, “He loved his community and always tried to do his part to make it a better place.” Rev. Paula Northrup at Clemmons UMC, at his family’s graveside service, shared that Samuelson’s ready response to the needs of the church or any individual often resulted in leadership positions. His leadership extended beyond his faith community and included the Clemmons Civic Club, the Clemmons Community Foundation, and even the civics class at West Forsyth High School.   

His leadership with the foundation was significant in 2016-2017, a formative time as it was taking shape as a community foundation. At the same time, he helped the foundation birth a new program — Women Who Care. Women Who Care was a group of charitably-minded women who wanted to collectively pool resources and empower women in addressing community needs. The group still operates today, having launched its own public charity called Women Who Care About Community. They have been especially focused on helping families of children in the local public schools.

A member of the Clemmons Civic Club for more than 30 years, Samuelson served twice as its president. David Barson, former president, remembers his kindness and warm welcome when he and his wife first moved to the area. Barson had two special memories. The Civic Club holds two fundraising pancake breakfasts a year. Barson recalls that Samuelson always was the welcoming and helpful greeter, sharing information about the club as he collected the money. “Frank was one of the reasons I joined the Clemmons Civic Club. He took special care in taking me under his wing throughout my membership. That was Frank. He was warm, caring and eager to help everyone he met.” Barson also recalls the last meeting Samuelson attended last fall. The club had a program cancellation and Samuelson quickly stepped up, leading an impromptu program on 4G versus 5G. Everyone applauded and marveled with how much they learned.   

Kirsten Russ, civics teacher at West Forsyth High School, recalls his influence on her students. “I am so grateful for his support of the student-led Clemmons council/mayor debates, held in local election years. His work with the Clemmons Civic Club and the community gave the debates the credibility to entice voters to attend. The students learned how to conduct a professional event and connected more closely with Clemmons. Frank’s advice and his suggestions are a major reason for the event as a major debate for a candidate and voters to attend.”

When Samuelson unexpectedly passed, several current and former leaders with the foundation and Women Who Care About Community wanted to do something to remember and honor his life. “An adult scholarship is the perfect way to honor Frank Samuelson. His commitment to the community and to future leaders and students serves as part of the foundation for future generations,” said Joanna Lyall, past Clemmons Community Foundation president and board member. As longtime friend Ken Burkel said, “adult education was a big part of his wheelhouse. He believed continuing one’s education to be a lifelong endeavor and, with all the technological changes in the market, an essential component to having the skills needed to have a well-paying and personally-rewarding occupation.” Kirsten Russ adds, “this is a fitting memorial to a citizen who modeled servant and public leadership for persons of all ages in our community.”

Thanks to his many peers and friends, Samuelson’s life and community service will be remembered through this award of up to $2,500 for the Frank H. Samuelson Scholarship. The scholarship will be paid on behalf of the recipient directly to FTCC and cover tuition, books, and other course-related costs. Representatives of the organizations in which Samuelson was involved will assist with the selection of a award recipient. Interested adults attending Forsyth Tech and in need of education assistance may apply online at ccf.gives/scholarships or contact Program Officer Greg Keener for additional information at greg@clemmonsfoundation.org.

Sandi Scannelli is president and CEO of the Clemmons Community Foundation.