Although Ron Turek and Ann Carlson come from different educational backgrounds and careers, their positive experiences with higher education and its life-altering possibilities long ago confirmed to them that a college education is paramount and indispensable.
To support this strong belief, the Reno couple is starting a workforce scholarship through Western Nevada College Foundation.
Coming from a farming upbringing on homestead land in South Dakota and having worked unfulfilling odd jobs, Turek went into the U.S. Air Force for four years and came out committed to following his higher education dreams.
“If it wasn’t for the GI Bill, I still might be working for the Standard Oil Company,” Turek said. “Education was important for me and got me to where I am today.”
First, like many high school graduates, Turek enrolled in a community college (El Camino in Los Angeles County). Next, after starting out in engineering and changing to business in achieving his associate degree, Turek transferred to Long Beach State to study finance.
“It’s a good starting point for students at a junior college,” Turek said. “And unless they go into the military, a lot of them are standing around and trying to figure out what they are going to do when they grow up. That’s why I zeroed in with the guys for this scholarship. If they can be exposed to community colleges and junior colleges, it’s so important for their educational and professional careers.”
While Turek went on to a career in business and finance, Carlson pursued a bachelor’s degree in business at Pacific University in Stockton, Calif., and the University of Nevada, Reno.
“What kept me going was because both of my parents had graduated from college and that motivation was present in our home,” Carlson said. “Once people get started, they get hooked on education. When I was at Reno High School, they had industrial arts (auto mechanics and drafting), and home economics, typing and stenography … a lot of things that are now obsolete to help people not going to college.”
Carlson was inspired by her grandfather who emigrated from Denmark and eventually opened his own grocery store in Sacramento. He also met Carlson’s grandmother there and they opened their own wholesale grocery store in Reno.
After graduating from Nevada, she realized that the business world was male dominated. At that time, her friends in education persuaded her that she was a natural teacher based upon how successfully she taught junior skiers in the Reno area. So, Carlson returned to UNR to earn a master’s degree in education and became a second-grade teacher at Roger Corbett Elementary School in Reno … for 35 years!
Part of their partnership now is to help college students in the region. Carlson and her family have also made significant contributions to better the University of Nevada, Reno and Washoe County School District. One of their most-recent scholarship programs is for single fathers at Truckee Meadows Community College.
“She’s done so much to help people in the education world,” Turek said proudly.
Now, they are focused on helping prepare WNC students for health care, manufacturing and service industry careers, bringing updated skills and talent to their Northern Nevada communities.
“We are so touched that we can make a difference in these young people’s lives and assist them in staying in school and becoming the professionals that they want to be,” the couple said.
For information about starting your own scholarship, contact WNC Foundation at 775-445-3240.