NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A Drury High School graduate has left half of his $1.1 million estate to endow a scholarship fund at his alma mater.
Albert Harvey Chenail, who died in April 2017 at the age of 96, bequeathed an initial $400,000 to establish the Frederick L. Chenail and Jessie M. Chenail Scholarship Fund in honor of his parents.
His will states "the total amount of such Fund shall be invested and reinvested by Drury High School and that the income from such Fund shall be rewarded annually as a scholarship to a student at Drury High School for the purpose of furthering his or her college or vocational school education."
The gift requires the creation of a committee of the superintendent, Drury's principal and guidance director, and that the "award shall be made to a worthy student having financial need."
Chenail was a Navy veteran of World War II who graduated from what was then North Adams State College. He was an inspector for the Navy, including working in the Navy Department at the former Sprague Electric Co. He also was a member of the Frank R. Stiles Post 125 American Legion.
Such bequests don't normally come to the School Committee, administrative assistant to the superintendent Nancy Rauscher explained at Tuesday's meeting, "but this language in the will was very unique and very specific."
Scholarships are usually established and operated by the estates or families but in this case, Chenail's will gave the oversight responsibility to the School Department. Rauscher said she had been working with the estate's attorneys and the School Department's attorney to work out the steps.
Once the School Committee had accepted the gift, the next step would be to determine where the money would go. There are three options: leave the funds where they are now, being managed by Atlas Private Wealth Management on Union Street and change the name on them; have them sent to a broker of the School Department's choice, or have a check made out and determine from there.
The committee accepted the gift but made no other decision at this point.
Rauscher said a further distribution of funds would follow once the estate's administrative fees and taxes are paid and the funds are accounted by the state.
Chenail was the last surviving member of his immediate family. His wife of 44 years, the former Rita Bergeron, died in 1997 and he outlived his seven brothers and sisters. He does have several nieces and nephews.
"A lifelong resident of Berkshire County, Mr. Chenail felt very strongly about the importance of education," wrote his attorney, James J. Sisto, in a letter to Superintendent Barbara Malkas. "Antoinette Hawke and James Harvey, the niece and nephew of Mr. Chenail and the Personal Representatives of his Estate are honored and proud that their uncle's generosity will continue in perpetuity upon the establishment of the Frederick L. Chenail and Jessie M. Chenail Scholarship Fund to benefit a worthy student of financial need each and every year."
Mayor Thomas Bernard said the bequest was deeply appreciated and "really remarkable" and that he and Malkas have had some preliminary conversations about how to honor Chenail and his family.
"It needs to be honored and it needs to be celebrated," he said. "As students begin to benefit from this scholarship that they recognize this is a real signature gift."
The scholarship endowment was certainly the largest but not the only gift accepted by the School Committee on Tuesday. It accepted three more donations for the public schools totaling $1,700.
• Steve Green and Susan Walker, longtime activists in the community and education supporters, donated $500 to "help support the education of North Adams school students."
• General Dynamics Mission Systems of Pittsfield donated $1,000 in support of STEAM (science, tech, engineering, arts and math) activities and programs at the request of employee Wilfred Bourdon, who volunteers with the programs.
• Joshua Mendel, director of recruitment and outreach at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, donated $200 in honor of professor Phyllis Hakeem "a true champion for education and a friend to North Adams Public Schools."
Mendel said Hakeem was a mentor and guide to him and that he hoped the gift could be used toward literacy education. Malkas said this gift has a special meaning because of Hakeem's work with many of the administrators.
• Malkas also announced that the School Department had received a $285,549 Community Preschool Partnership Initiative Grant with Child Care of the Berkshires for 2019. The grant cycle opened in mid-December and closed Jan. 4, so it took a concerted effort to get everything in on time.
The grant will be used to fund two full-day preschool classrooms with both before and after-school care at Brayton Elementary School and at Child Care of the Berkshires; the hope is that year two of the grant will double the amount.
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