June 15, 2023
The William J. Foreman Memorial scholarship was launched in 2007 by Louise and Mark Foreman, to honor the memory of their son Will Foreman, who was tragically killed in an automobile accident on February 24, 2006. Will had a generous heart, a loving spirit, and was drawn to helping those less fortunate than himself. He had faced personal adversity during his high school years, but successfully overcame it to graduate and begin college studies in computer science. In those seventeen years, the scholarship has awarded $100,000 to 57 students who, like Will, have overcome adversity. The Community Foundation spoke with Louise Foreman, who offered some thoughts on this remarkable and incredible achievement.

The Scholarship was founded in 2007 to honor the memory of your late son Will. How was your family connected to the Community Foundation, and what guided you all towards creating the scholarship fund?

I had heard about Community Foundations and did some research to determine if that was the best option for our family to establish and manage the scholarship funds. At the time, we were unsure of the amount of donations and the duration of the scholarship program so the Community Foundation model seemed ideal for us. Given the fact that CFNOVA would help us setup the scholarship fund, handle all necessary paperwork and reporting, administer the account, disburse the funds and provide the opportunity to prudently invest the funds made the decision a fairly easy one for us. We felt strongly that we wanted something positive to come from such an agonizing loss and most importantly, we wanted to honor the beautiful spirit of our son, Will, who had just graduated high school and had begun his higher education journey. He had a huge heart and was a champion of helping those less fortunate than himself. Providing the opportunity for other deserving young people, who had overcome significant adversity, to pursue a better and brighter future through higher education seemed a most fitting legacy.

In what ways has the scholarship evolved since 2007?

The scholarship program awarded the first scholarship to one student for $1,000 17 years ago in 2007. Since then, we have grown the program to award five (5) scholarships of $2,000 each annually. All donations have come from family, friends and other CFNV grants. We pay all the administrative fees so every penny ever donated has gone directly to the scholarship fund. We are so proud that to date, we have awarded $100,000 in scholarships to 57 students from 22 Fairfax Co. Public High Schools. Those students have gone on to attend 21 different colleges both inside and outside Virginia. We have also had the privilege of personally meeting 56 out of the 57 recipients (virtually during the pandemic) thanks to support from FCPS who assist us in the selection process and hosting a presentation of certificates every year.

As you might know, the Community Foundation recently changed its mission statement to center equity and community-building. The recipients of this scholarship are often students who face hardship and overcome significant obstacles. Can you talk more about that?

One of the primary criteria for this scholarship program is that the student has faced some kind of significant adversity and has successfully overcome that adversity. Priority is given to those who have lacked family support, are independent of parent or guardian, are/have been in foster care or are/ have been homeless. We have had students from all those categories. The majority of our recipients have come from all over the world, many from conflict riddled or war-torn countries, escaping physical and/or sexual abuse and/or escaping religious and/or political persecution. Many of them are going to school and working full or part-time jobs to help support themselves and/or their families. Their stories are often harrowing and sad but always incredibly inspirational. Many are the first generation in their families to attend institutions of higher learning. They look to higher education as their opportunity to build a better life for themselves and their families and to contribute and give back in the future.

Have you spoken to any of the scholarship winners? Either recent awardees, or those from several years ago?

It is not unusual to receive “thank you” messages from grateful recipients. One of the recent recipients commented, “It’s on us to continue the dreams of those who have been unable to do so”, which was so meaningful to us. In addition, we have been fortunate over the years to have past recipients contact us to let us know how they are doing. Several years ago, one student let us know that he was fulfilling his dream of becoming a doctor and was completing his residency in pediatrics and planned to specialize in pediatric oncology. Most recently, two of the 2022 recipients have kept in touch with us and we continue to get together for lunch periodically to catch up on the progress they are making and continue to offer support and encouragement as they continue their higher education journey. While there is no expectation that the recipients will remain in touch, it is always a pleasant surprise and most welcome when it does happen.

The first recipient of this scholarship would be around 34 years old now. What do you imagine the next 17 years, the next $100,000+ look like?

I hope that we will be fortunate enough to have the continuing financial support from our family and friends for the scholarship program to continue to grow in terms of number of recipients and dollar amounts of the awards. Our donors have been most generous throughout the years and we remain so grateful to them. We have also made provisions through our estate planning to help ensure the William J. Foreman Memorial Scholarship program will continue for many more years to come to provide higher educational opportunities for many more deserving young people to achieve their dreams. We firmly embrace the sentiment from the following quote from Marian Wright Edelman: “Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it.”