Banquet boasts brightest

Jim Vance remembers his first American Ethnic Student Scholarship Recognition Banquet from 1988 as a pot luck with everyone bringing a dish to pass, eating off of paper plates and drinking out of disposable cups and there wasn’t enough food to go around.

Vance made a promise to provide more food and increase the attendance for future years.

The banquet in 1988 recognized five students who received $1,000 each. At Friday’s banquet, more than $162,000 in scholarship money was awarded to 69 students.

“It was a really nice ceremony,” said junior Rachel Lockett, a Spanish and marketing double major.

Lockett was one of the 23 students given the Diversity Scholars award at the banquet.

The program for the banquet states that the award was created in 1995 to help UW-Eau Claire compete in the national market to attract and retain academically superior multicultural students.

“I was recruited to Eau Claire when I hadn’t even heard of it . and I ended up coming here,” Lockett said.

Other unique scholarships were given out to students by departments on campus and also sponsors who have special connections to the university.

Johannes Dale, a former faculty member at Eau Claire, awarded the scholarship he and his wife sponsor to Amber Little, a senior majoring in Spanish with a minor in theater and music.

Little said she was very excited and honored to be at the banquet and serve as co-master of ceremonies for Friday’s event.

“It’s important that the university gets a chance to show all the recruiting and work done to get multicultural students to Eau Claire,” Little said.

Dale said diversity at Eau Claire is “not just for the students themselves, but others who haven’t had experience with students of other nationalities.”

The reverse is also the same, Dale said. The multicultural students get the same experience dealing with other students at the university.

Caitlin Lee attended the banquet for her first time, and was recognized for receiving the Henry Aaron Merit Scholarship.

“It makes me feel good to have this scholarship,” Lee said. “This has a different feel to it; we actually feel like we are being honored.”

Lee is on the Artist Series commission, the international films commission, and she has been a teaching assistant for the political science department. She is also a member of honor societies Golden Key and Phi Sigma Alpha.

“They are all honor students,” Little said. “It’s important for other people to see this.”

Senior Jesse Okiror said the students weren’t just honored for being minorities.

“These aren’t students that are just here because they are students of color,” said Okiror, who was also an master of ceremonies of the event. “They are the best and the brightest.”

The ceremony was designed to honor the students and faculty, but a big focus of the night was honoring the work of Jim Vance.

Vance, the director of the American Ethnic Coordinating Office, retired during the summer from his position after 14 years.

Chancellor Donald Mash honored Vance with a plaque denoting his efforts in the last 14 years of service to the university. Additionally, Wisconsin Governor Scott McCallum awarded Vance with a certificate of accommodation for Vance’s 30 years of service to the state of Wisconsin.

Vance’s students also gave him a plaque of appreciation for all that he has meant to them and their education.

“I’m here and my brother is here because of him,” Okiror said. “There was a point in my senior year (of high school) when I wasn’t sure if I was going to college, until I met Jim Vance.”

Vance said the goal of the program is to “recruit the whole family.”

“I can go from table to table and point out each family member,” Vance said.

The program, he said, is designed to be a life-long one, beyond the family’s direct involvement with Eau Claire.

During the ceremony, Okiror said the volume of students involved in the student scholarship program and the amount of money raised for scholarships were because of Vance’s efforts.

Vance will stay in the Eau Claire area for five more years, and he will continue working as a consultant for the program, he said. “I will always, until my death, be involved in higher education.”