Newsmakers you should know: Music-loving sisters establish high school scholarship


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Sisters Pat Hunter and Karen Johnson have left the North Hills area, but they both remember their roots and love their hometown.

The siblings graduated from North Hills High School in the 1960s. Ms. Hunter lives in Virginia, and Mrs. Johnson lives in Connecticut. Despite the miles between the sisters and their hometown of Ross, the two recently created and awarded the first Hunter Family Scholarship in honor of their late parents, Harold and Kathlyn Hunter.

"Our parents always encouraged us to love music. We came from fairly humble roots, but they always encouraged us to play instruments and sing," Mrs. Johnson said.

Their parents would play the piano and sing in nursing homes after they retired and would give the money donated for the performances to a local park.

"Our parents taught us by example," Mrs. Johnson said.

Mrs. Johnson said the seed was planted for the family's $30,000 scholarship fund when her daughter, Kristy, received a financial award 18 years ago as a senior at Rockville High School in Vernon, Conn.

"It went to a student who loved music and had music in his or her life but wasn't going to pursue music as a career. My daughter was going to study physical therapy, but sang in the chorus and loved music,' she said.

Over the years, the sisters discussed a tribute for their parents but wanted "an ongoing memorial," Ms. Hunter said. Their father died in 2004 and their mother in 2007.

Mrs. Johnson said, "A marker is really a dead thing. We wanted something living."

The two decided to establish a scholarship similar to the one that Kristy had won. The award would be given to a graduating senior from North Hills High School who wasn't planning to major in music but for whom music was an important part of life. A scholarship committee at the high school chose the recipient.

In May, the sisters awarded the first Hunter Scholarship to Elisabeth "Elsa" Spear, a 2013 graduate of North Hills High School who plans to major in English education. Like the Hunter sisters, she enjoys music and played in the high school band.

"Music and being in the band has taught me a lot about leadership and working with others," Miss Spear said, adding that she has played the French horn since fifth grade and was a section leader in the band.

"I love music, but I don't want to dedicate a career to it. There are many awards for music majors, but this one is awarded for the love, not the career," she said.

That is exactly the type of award the Hunter sisters were hoping to establish.

"We wanted to encourage students to continue having music in their lives whether it is playing an instrument or singing in a choir or chorus after they graduate," Mrs. Johnson said.

Ms. Hunter believes Miss Spear is the perfect recipient of the first award honoring her parents.

"She was perfect. As soon as we met her, we felt like we knew her. She is pursuing education and loves music -- just what we wanted," she said.

neigh_north

Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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