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January 21, 2014

In His Mother’s Name

Jay Bryant establishes scholarship fund for schools

STEARNS —  Jay Bryant isn’t the first McCreary County native to move back home after more than 50 years away.

    But while most hope to recapture hometown living as they remember it, Bryant is driven by a desire to improve our economically-challenged community.

    On Friday, Bryant joined McCreary County Superintendent Arthur D. Wright to announce a donation of $85,000 to the district toward the establishment of the Mary Bryant Scholarship Fund.

    The scholarship is named in honor of Bryant’s mother, who went to work as a cook (first at the King Ed Restaurant then later at Dupont Lodge and the local system) to support a family of 13 children after her husband Billie died in 1950.

    “She was our inspiration,” Bryant said.

    Bryant took his mother’s work ethic to heart, though his career path far more twists and turns.

    Graduating from McCreary County High School in 1962, he left his Marshes Siding home to join the Air Force where he would serve four years (and earn his barber’s license) before settling into the Reserves.

    After his enlistment, Bryant decided to enroll at the University of Kentucky where it took him 12 years to graduate as he worked his way through school by hauling tobacco. From there, he went to work with the Internal Revenue Service before landing at a paper mill in Wisconsin where he stayed until it closed in February of last year.     In between he also built homes both in Nicholasville and Wisconsin, training as a plumber and electrician through the process.

    “I’m a workaholic,” Bryant laughed with Supt. Wright adding that he’s even now working as a substitute bus driver.

    Though his wife Susan Quist hails from Wisconsin, Bryant convinced her to move to McCreary County last July. Having acquired “a little money” by helping to care for a friend over 25 years, the couple determined that a scholarship would be the best way to honor his mother, who passed away in 1987, while giving local youth an opportunity to succeed.

    “I’ve always had a mind to help out here,” Bryant said.

    A very grateful Supt. Wright noted that, while selection criteria must still be worked out, the donation will be deposited into an interest-bearing account which can provide scholarships for years to come.

    Bryant said a committee will be established to select recipients who are nominated by a counselor or principal. Hoping to make the first awards this spring, he envisions a scholarship based on both need and merit — but not necessarily in the traditional sense.

    “I don’t agree with GPA,” Bryant said of the academic standard. “Some of our presidents didn’t make the best grades in school. There are other qualities for success.”

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