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Man honors late wife through Avondale art scholarships

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published December 23, 2015

 Avondale High School Principal Sharon Hyde, Jack Schodowski and Avondale art teacher Leigh Wright pose for a photo during a recent meeting about the art scholarship.

Avondale High School Principal Sharon Hyde, Jack Schodowski and Avondale art teacher Leigh Wright pose for a photo during a recent meeting about the art scholarship.

Photo provided by Avondale Schools

ROCHESTER HILLS/AUBURN HILLS — Avondale School Distrct art students have a chance at a few new scholarships aimed at supporting a career in the arts, thanks to the generosity of a Rochester Hills man.

Jack Schodowski plans to donate $1,000 each year — on behalf of his wife, Helen, who passed away earlier this year — to a scholarship fund to be shared by three Avondale seniors.

“I wanted to do it for her memory, to promote that within the school,” he said. “I saw an article … about Avondale last year, about the art department and how outstanding it was, and I started thinking about it and I thought, ‘Gosh, that might not be a bad idea.’”

Schodowski said he has a long history in the local community and the Avondale School District, where many of his grandchildren currently attend or have attended in the past. His company, Shelving Inc., opened its doors more than 55 years ago and is located near downtown Auburn Hills. 

“We always felt connected to the district because of where our company is located. Now our grandchildren go to school here, so I feel even more connected,” he said.

Schodowski’s wife was passionate about theater and the arts, and he said she had a deep love for painting.

“She and her sister just started taking up painting 30-40 years ago as a little hobby, and they would meet once a week and go see an artist in Milford who was a teacher. She just began painting and painting and painting and painting, and she loved it,” he said. “So I thought it would be a good memory for her.”

Though Helen Schodowski painted strictly in oils, Avondale art teacher Leigh Wright said the scholarship fund will be open to all art students at Avondale High School. 

“It’s such a generous gift for him to be giving us and the students. I loved the fact that so often now everybody is pushing technology and math and science, and a lot of kids who have a passion for art feel like they can’t really do anything with it career-wise. It’s nice that somebody from the community realizes that it is important, and this is a passion that a student can turn into something that they do for a living when they get out of school. I think that money will help the students to see that people do value that creative aspect of their minds,” she said.

The scholarship winners will be selected by members of the Avondale art department, and winners will be announced during the high school’s annual Senior Art Exhibit, featuring the work of Advanced Placement students, held the first week in May. 

Wright said the district currently awards a $1,000 scholarship to the first-place AP artist during the exhibition, a $250 scholarship to the second-place AP artist, and a $100 scholarship to the AP art student in third place.

“The nice thing about this new scholarship is that we can start to include other students, outside of the Advanced Placement program, in getting some scholarship money to help them pursue their career in school tuition and supplies — because going to school for art is really, really expensive. Especially supplies, because you use them up, so it’s not like you can sell a book back,” she explained. “I’m really excited that this gentleman has donated his money in memory of his wife.”