By Craig Marx, Editor
The Honorable John Rhode is currently the Langlade County Circuit Court Judge and also chairman of the Red Robin Scholarship Foundation, of which he will be retiring from after this year.
Q) What exactly is the Red Robin Scholarship Foundation and how is it affiliated with both the school and the Optimist Club?
A) The Foundation was started by a group of local business men back in the 1980s to try to do something to help graduating Antigo HS students with getting a start on paying for college. It is a 501c3 Non-profit corporation. It was originally affiliated with the Optimist Club to use that club’s tax exempt status, but it is now a stand-alone corporation and no longer relies on that relationship with the Optimist Club. The name has never been officially changed and that is why you still see the reference to Optimist Club. The Foundation is really not connected to the school in any way other than its purpose is to assist AHS graduates and we do have teachers/administrators and school counselors on the board.
Q) How long have you been a member and now chairman?
A) I have been on the board for about 10 years and chairman for the last 8 years. Our Secretary Treasurer Becky Kassis has served in that capacity since the inception of the Foundation. She does an amazing amount of work but is retiring after next year. Everyone who serves on the foundation volunteers their time.
Q) I had heard there was potentially more scholarships available this year than ever before? What made that possible and how many kids was the foundation able to help?
A) In addition to the dozens of businesses and individuals who contribute to the Foundation every year, we received a gift of over $700,000 from the Ed Vavruska estate about 3 years ago. That has greatly expanded our assets on hand (to nearly $2 million). With that help, the Foundation is now able to award over 100 scholarships totalling over $200,000 per year. Every graduate who applies generally receives at least $1,000 in total scholarship money from the foundation.
Q) I also heard that this wast your last year with the Foundation Board. Any thoughts on leaving and how does the future of the program look?
A) I have enjoyed my time on the Foundation Board. It is a great feeling to hand out free money to kids interested in continuing their education. As long as our community continues its trend of generosity over the last 35 years, the Foundation should be able to continue awarding scholarships to AHS graduates for the foreseeable future and will never run out of money. Antigo High School graduates, Chad Matuszewski and Jason Jansen will be taking over as President and Treasurer respectively next year.