Sputnik 1 helped launch Cheryl Kern-Simirenko on her career path.
When the Soviet Union blasted the first artificial satellite into space in 1957, it sparked concern in this country whether U.S. students were receiving an adequate science education.
"I misinterpreted that we were being told that Russian kids were smarter than we were. That motivated me to learn everything I could about those Russian kids who were supposed to be so smart," Kern-Simirenko said with a laugh. Kern-Simirenko grew up in Stanley and moved back to the area in 2013. A widow, she has two stepdaughters.
She established the James and Margaret Kern Memorial Endowment Fund in honor of her parents, longtime Stanley residents. Avid readers and history buffs, they were committed to lifelong learning. "They were children of the Great Depression who were unable to finish high school. They were, however, blessed with boundless intellectual curiosity, a gift passed on to their only child."
Her father, a prizewinning cheesemaker, and mother, a volunteer reading tutor, made sacrifices so she could attend Notre Dame-McDonell Memorial High School in Chippewa Falls and universities in Minnesota and Wisconsin. "They believed passionately in the power of education to positively influence lives." Kern-Simirenko earned bachelor's degrees in Russian literature and history and master's degrees in Russian history and library science. She worked at Syracuse University in New York, the University of Oregon and Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., before retiring in 2012 as dean of the University of Akron libraries in Ohio.
Knowing her education provided resources for a successful career, she aims to "pay it forward" through the endowment, which will support scholarships for McDonell Central Catholic High School graduates, selected by teachers, with an emphasis on first-generation university-bound seniors. "It is an opportunity to make something of your life," she said.
Supports scholarships for McDonell Central Catholic High School graduates, selected by teachers, with an emphasis on first-generation university-bound seniors.