Berrien Community Foundation to give away nursing scholarships

Published 9:21 am Monday, January 28, 2019

BERRIEN COUNTY — It takes a lot to be a nurse – time, talent and compassion. Mark and Jean Penwell wanted to be a part of helping those who have that passion fulfill their dreams through the F.A. Mason Penwell Scholarship for nursing. The scholarship fund established at the Berrien Community Foundation will provide two $1,500 nursing scholarships each year.

“We have all been impacted by nurses,” Mark said. “They touch people’s lives at such a vulnerable time.  They are the people we see every day.  They play such an important role – hospitals, home care, traveling nurses – and we want to contribute to that.”

All BCF scholarship applications are now available online. The Berrien Community Foundation has sought to help students achieve their college goals for more than 20 years. From engineering to teaching to music, the foundation has scholarship opportunities for graduating high school seniors and adults returning to school.

Students are encouraged to visit for a complete list of available scholarships, and criteria. Applications are due March 4. For questions about scholarships contact Program Manager Susan Matheny at or by calling (269) 983-3304 ext. 2.

“Last year we awarded $199,500 in scholarships to Berrien County students” said Berrien Community Foundation Program Manager Susan Matheny. “Scholarships are available for graduating seniors and adults returning to school after a gap. We even have a handful of scholarships for students outside of Berrien County.”

The scholarship is named for Mark’s mother, Frances Abbie Mason Penwell, who was an artist and teacher.

“She believed in the professions, getting a good education and being well-rounded,” Mark said.

Jean’s mom had always wanted to be a nurse. But in the early 1940’s, she was forced to leave school with just three months to go when the administration discovered she was married. 

“You couldn’t be married and be a nurse or a teacher at that time,” Jean said. “My mom always held nurses in such high regard.”

Jean and Mark, both Whirlpool retirees, have lived in St. Joseph for most of their lives and are happy to be able to give something back.

“We can do something here because we have a local college with great expertise, and we have Lakeland that needs great nurses,” Mark said. “We are just glad to be able to pay it forward to the next generation.”

Setting up the scholarship through the Berrien Community Foundation made the process easy, Jean added. “We are happy to know we can hand it off to Berrien Community Foundation and know it is all taken care of and will continue on,” Jean said.

Lake Michigan College, with its long-accredited nursing program, is grateful for the support for the nursing students.

“The Berrien Community Foundation has a long legacy of supporting education in our community, and this new scholarship opportunity is a perfect example of that,” said LMC President, Dr. Trevor Kubatzke. “We are thrilled to have one more opportunity through this scholarship to help train the next generation of caregivers.”

The goal of the Berrien Community Foundation is to connect needs with resources in our community. Working with individuals, corporations and other foundations, BCF creates endowments and other funds that support the ever-changing needs of Berrien County now and into the future. BCF’s Community Endowment and field of interest funds, and donor advised funds have provided funding to support a wide variety of services and agencies for over 65 years. For more information on the Berrien Community Foundation visit its  website at or call BCF President Lisa Cripps-Downey at (269) 983-3304.