Scholarship honoring SMC grad aids students with financial need

Future Southwestern Michigan College students will benefit from the generosity of a former graduate’s family.

The Brian Michael Blazek Memorial Scholarship established by his parents and sister creates a $40,336 Southwestern Michigan College endowment. The Blazeks also funded a $1,000 outside scholarship to be awarded for the fall 2018/spring 2019 semesters. The scholarship named for the 1998 SMC graduate will be awarded to a student with financial need, at least a 2.8 high school grade-point average, pursuing an associate degree in applied science in engineering technology, pre-engineering or robotics and is a U.S. citizen. It is renewable for a second year if the student earns at least a 3.0 GPA.

Brian earned an associate in applied science degree focusing on aviation mechanics which put him on the path to earn another degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. He died from a heart attack Oct. 16, 2017.

“Even though we no longer offer degrees in aviation mechanics, the Blazek’s scholarship is evidence of the enduring positive impact an SMC education can have on our students’ lives,” said SMC President Dr. David Mathews. “We appreciate this generous gift to help further our mission to provide affordable local access to high-quality, post-secondary career preparation and college education.”

Brian was born March 27, 1969, and a graduate of South Bend’s St. Joseph High School. He was the son of Jo Ann and Joseph Blazek of Diamond Lake, Cassopolis, and brother of Krista Hogarth of Chicago. It was at SMC where his family said he found himself and developed his interest in aviation mechanics.

“Finding something he felt he was good at was the missing piece,” Hogarth said. “Success beget success. He was always interested in airplanes and was the kid who took everything apart.

Brian’s mother Jo Ann Blazek said SMC gave Brian direction and that the teachers were good at caring and giving him personal attention.

By the time Brian graduated from Embry-Riddle, his education opened work opportunities across the globe, and he went forth confidently, his family said. Brian worked for Alpha Aviation Group, a London-based company with offices in the Philippines. As Director of Aircraft Maintenance, he championed safety for his aircraft and student pilots. He had just completed a company-wide campaign to install airbags in student planes and was proud they never lost a student pilot during his tenure.

His company plans to erect a new hangar he advocated and to name it for him. “Brian would really be proud of that,” Mrs. Blazek said.

“It’s bittersweet he didn’t live to see it,” Hogarth said and recalled her big brother as generous, kind, stubborn, fiercely loyal and hilarious.

There will be a celebration of life service to remember Brian July 8 at Camp Eberhart near Three Rivers. His family attended church services in its outdoor chapel during their summers at Diamond Lake.

SMC’s foundation accepts contributions to existing scholarships in addition to establishing new scholarships. Direct donations to: SMC Foundation, Director of Development, 58900 Cherry Grove Road, Dowagiac, MI 49047. Contact Eileen Toney at (269) 782-1301 or etoney@swmich.edu for more information.

Southwestern Michigan College is a public, residential and commuter, community college, founded in 1964. The college averages in the top 10 percent nationally for student academic success based upon the National Community College Benchmark Project. Southwestern Michigan College strives to be the college of first choice, to provide the programs and services to meet the needs of students, and to serve our community. The college is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and is a member of the American Association of Community Colleges.

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