It was in 1997 when the first Jon Dinsmore Scholarships were presented to Cherry Hill High School West students with exemplary math skills. Eleanor Cheney started the scholarship in honor of her son, a member of the Cherry Hill West class of 1964 who died from a brain tumor in 1996 at the age of 49.
On Thursday, Cheney presented the Dinsmore scholarships for the final time to five Cherry Hill West seniors. However, it wasn’t just Cheney handing out gifts.
Former recipients, teachers and staff returned to Cherry Hill West to thank Cheney for her generosity. In 18 years, 72 scholarships totaling about $360,000 were handed out. The 2014 recipients were the final ones as the family had used up all of the money in the scholarship fund.
“It was a great thrill,” Cheney said in seeing former scholarships recipients return. “They’ve cared enough to come back.”
Nine former scholarship winners took part in the ceremony, talking to the parents, students and teachers in attendance. Each took a minute to talk about what they are doing in school or their careers. They all have ventured into fields ranging from business, nursing, engineering and science.
Despite the wide range of professions, all had a message for this year’s winners. They told them the importance of giving back to others in the same way Cheney had.
“I’m paying it forward every day,” said Karen Tenorio, a 2001 scholarship recipient and a nurse at Jefferson Hospital.
Another 2001 award winner, Steven Back, a chemical engineer, remarked how great of a feeling it was to attend another scholarship ceremony 13 years after his own.
“It brings back a lot of memories come back to West and this library,” he said.
In addition to the nine former students, many others chose to show their appreciation in another way. Michelle Pryor, a Cherry Hill West guidance counselor and organizer of the event, presented Cheney with a scrapbook of letters, emails and mementos from former scholarship recipients.
Principal Kwame Morton remarked at how many students Cheney has touched over the years.
“There’s a significant number of people that have been impacted by your generosity,” he said.
Cheney said a number of former recipients have been in contact with her over the years. She enjoys hearing about what colleges every one goes to and what direction their careers are heading.
“I’ve gotten at least a couple dozen letters,” she said.
Cheney never imagined the scholarship would get as big as it did. In the library sits a plaque with the names of all 72 award recipients. The school was able to fill nearly every nameplate.
“We just kept on doing this,” she said. “We had the money there.”
Even though the scholarship itself is coming to an end, Cheney’s legacy with Cherry Hill West’s recent students will continue to live on. The school’s current and former winners in attendance spoke to Cheney after the ceremony, thanking her for all of the generosity she showed.
Through a small monetary gift, Cheney left a large impact on the Cherry Hill West community.