Dr. Virgil Erickson estate establishes $150K endowment

    The assortment of scholarships that Crookston High School seniors vie for each year grew by one Monday, but this one could be a bit more substantial, dollar-wise, than most.   

    The Crookston School Board accepted/approved the "Erickson Family Trust Endowment" for $150,000. The criteria a student would need to meet in order to receive the scholarship needs to be specified significantly beyond the current language that indicates the annual scholarship funded by the endowment would go to the "best all-around graduating senior" at CHS, board members agreed. But, for now, everyone is just thrilled to accept the endowment.   

    "It's overly generous," board chair Frank Fee said.   

    The endowment is named for Dr. Virgil Erickson, who passed away in 2011 at the age of 94. School District Business Manager Laura Lyczewski has been consulting with his Erickson's niece, who's handling the estate. She's learned in her discussions that Erickson attended high school in Crookston, had four brothers, and is buried in Oakdale Cemetery. He was the grandson of Bernard and Petra Sampson and lived on Sampson Street. Erickson moved from Crookston long ago, settling in California, where he worked as a physician at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. In retirement, he and his wife bought a ranch and bred horses.   

    Lyczewski and Superintendent Chris Bates said many specifics need to be determined before all of the details regarding the endowment and scholarships it will fund are finalized. "We're asking (Erickson's niece) about the process, how much money, who gets it, what to call it...those kinds of things," Lyczewski said.   

    Bates said the idea is to make the money last. "Clearly, it's their money and they need to feel very comfortable with what is done with it," he said. But, he added, "At 5 percent, you could give a $7,500 annual scholarship forever. It's extremely generous and will have a major impact."
United Way grants   

    The board also accepted two United Way of Crookston Impact grants. One, for $2,000, will go to the School Readiness program. The other, for $3,500, will go toward kindergarten and first grade at Washington School.   

    Washington Principal Denice Oliver, while thanking Brigette Burzette-DeLeon for applying for the $2,000 grant, said the School Readiness grant will fund book bags sent home with children in the program to share with their families.   

    As for the $3,500, it will help fund what has been identified as the "summer slide" that Oliver said often manifests itself when kindergartners leave on summer break and return in the fall as first graders. The grant will help fund a "summer checkout library" for kindergarten and first grade families.   

    Kindergartners' reading skills are assessed each spring, Oliver explained, and again in the fall when they return as first graders. The most recent data show that 56 percent of the first graders slipped one to four reading levels over the summer. Seventeen percent remained at the same level, she said, and 27 percent actually made reading level gains over the summer. It's the 56 percent that raises the biggest red flag, she said.   

    "What happens is they don't read over the summer and it means a lot of catch-up work that must be done for several months when they return as first graders," Oliver said. "The goal of the summer checkout library is to reduce the amount of 'summer slide' we see."