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Newbury scholarship finds a new home in VSAC

Written by
VSAC Staff

November 17, 2023


VSAC staff and Eleanor Placey in Newbury, VT

Eleanor Placey of the Newbury High School Alumni Association and VSAC VP Tom Little, with the historic Newbury School and church in the background. Newbury High School alumni enable local Oxbow students to fund their future with the Newbury Alumni Memorial Scholarship.

Eleanor Placey, a longtime board member of the Newbury High School Alumni Association, recalls that the group’s president rang in their annual meetings with a special handmade brass bell, forged literally out of a piece of the school’s past. 

“The school used to have a seminary, which burned in 1913. A member of the Class of 1914 found a fragment of the old seminary bell in that fire, and he cast it into that hand bell, which he presented to the alumni 50 years to the day from that fire, on June 14, 1963,” says Placey, who has served as treasurer of the alumni association for 20 years and was secretary for 15 years before that. 

“We used that bell to call the meetings to order every year, and I still have it, here in my living room,” she says. 

In a similar vein, Newbury High School alumni have long been contributing to a scholarship fund so that pieces of their wealth – from the modest to the more significant – could become a foundation for future generations.

Funding for future generations

“Some of the older people started the alumni fund back in the 1960s. A lot of people were very generous,” Placey says, some writing checks and others donating stocks. In addition to individual donations, the alumni group has also raised money over the years through food sales and events. While Newbury High School closed in 1971, they began paying out scholarship awards in 1984 to graduates of Oxbow Union High School who hailed from Newbury. 

“We usually got between four and seven applications a year. One year, we had the #1, #2 and #4 students from the class apply. I thought that was pretty special,” says Placey. 

Last year, Placey facilitated the handoff of the scholarship fund’s management from volunteer stewards to VSAC. This academic year, the Newbury Alumni Memorial Scholarship was one of the scholarships designated as “new” in VSAC’s booklet of the 150-plus scholarship programs it administers, many on behalf of private funders such as the Newbury alumni group.

“We chose VSAC because we wanted to ensure the money would be safe and well-managed, so it would be useful for years to come. We’d like to invest it where it will continue to support Newbury graduates,” she says. 

Reflecting back 60 years

Times have certainly changed since Placey and her husband graduated from Newbury High School, in 1960 and 1961, and went to work on the Placey family dairy farm, which has long been a local point of interest. 

“It’s very expensive for college now. It’s a lot of debt to carry. Back when we were young, people could work to put themselves through college,” including her brother, who paid his way through UVM with a scholarship and by working during the summers. “That’s not so easy anymore.” 

Placey’s advice to today’s up-and-coming students, including her own four grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren, is to find a career that helps people. She encourages students to consider opportunities in the trades, and to take advantage of the courses available through the tech centers, including their regional center in Bradford. “And it’s important to have a strong work ethic, always doing what you can to help your employer. That’s what we always impressed on our boys.”

Leading with a strong work ethic

A strong work ethic is one of the requirements for the Newbury Alumni Association scholarship award, which contributes $1,000 toward the continuing education of Newbury residents who have graduated from Oxbow High School. The awards also consider financial need, academic performance, and community service. 

“The other stipulation was that the students that applied needed to attend our annual banquet to receive their awards. That way the older members could meet them,” Placey explains. 

“We’ll miss that part of it. But it’s a lot of work putting on a banquet every year. The alumni are getting up in years, and it’s hard to get people to take responsibilities,” she says. 

“We wanted to make sure that the last class to graduate could have a banquet to celebrate their 50th reunion. We reached that milestone in 2021. Now it’s time for someone else to take charge.” 

If you would like to explore sponsoring a scholarship managed by VSAC or donating to VSAC’s own Vermont Scholarship Fund, visit our website.