ST. PARIS – A committee of Graham alumni has come together to establish a scholarship endowment fund in the name of local legend Donzil Hall.
The endowment committee, led by 1966 Graham graduate Ed Shell and 1967 Graham graduate Larry Baker, consists of Graham alumni Bill Dallas, Rick Campbell, Terry Howell, Bob Ward, Rich Goddard, Dwain Hollingsworth, Jay Lewis and Tim West.
Hall grew up in West Virginia, graduating from Spencer High School in 1950. Before going on to university studies, Hall entered the U.S. Army to serve in the Korean War. He achieved the rank of Sergeant 1st Class and later received several awards for his service, including the Ford Oval of Honor this past July.
After leaving the military, Hall attended Marshall University, where he obtained varsity letters in both baseball and football. Hall particularly excelled in baseball, gaining first team All-Mid-American Conference honors in both 1957 and 1958 and posting impressive statistics, including a career batting average of .336. In 1993, Hall’s remarkable career earned him a spot in the Marshall Athletic Hall of Fame.
After graduating from Marshall in 1958, Hall moved to Ohio and began working at Rosewood High School. When the area schools consolidated into Graham Local Schools circa 1960, Hall continued serving for 33 years as a teacher, athletic director and coach of both baseball and football. In 1973, Hall led Graham’s baseball team to a state championship.
He retired from teaching in 1991.
“He is a very loyal and dedicated guy to helping kids as well as being an educator,” Baker said.
Despite his athletic success, Hall named teaching as his favorite part of his career at Graham. Though he never planned to remain in the area so long, the character of the community appealed to him.
“The people here are hard-working, honest people, and they appreciated things that you did for them,” Hall said. “The kids at Graham are just great.”
Baker remembers being in third grade when Hall began teaching at Rosewood in 1958. Baker played basketball, football and baseball at Graham. Baker also played baseball for the Western Ohio League, and Hall played alongside him as a teammate.
“He’s a very humble, very quiet, confident competitor,” Baker said of Hall. “His life-long, career-long experience was at Graham High School.”
Tim West, 1974 Graham graduate, pitched for Hall’s state title-winning team and also has been greatly impacted by Hall.
“As a coach, Donzil instilled discipline and hard work ethic within our players,” West said. “He taught us how important the little things are to have success, and in our state run, we won because we did the little things.”
According to West, Hall impacted his players’ lives on and off the field.
“I believe Donzil was a big part in the direction many of us have taken in our lives,” West said.
West, owner of Superior Painting and Restoration in Urbana for 38 years, attributes much of his success to Hall, who gave him his first painting jobs during summers to earn money for college. The pair also frequently play golf together.
Throughout the years, Hall has been honored in various ways for his impact on the Graham community. In 1991, Hall was immortalized in the Miami Valley Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame. Additionally, the high school’s new baseball field was dubbed Donzil Hall Field.
In appreciation for all that Hall has given to Graham students, the Donzil Hall Scholarship Endowment Committee felt it was only fitting that a fund be instituted in Hall’s name that would provide aid for secondary education to Graham athletes.
Of his reaction to hearing about the scholarship, Hall said, “I was very surprised, but I really wasn’t surprised. The people who talked to me about it were good students at the high school and good athletes, too. They’ll make it work, I’m sure, if they set their mind to it.”
Baker and Shell, sharing a mutual respect for Hall, came up with the idea for the new scholarship. Baker, who worked as a financial estate planner for 37 years in Springfield, jumped at Shell’s suggestion, and the pair quickly put a plan in motion.
“I knew who else was well-connected and respectful of Donzil, so I asked those people to join me and Ed Shell in doing this,” Baker said.
Shell and Baker formed three committees and have held two meetings thus far.
The committee has partnered with the Springfield Foundation to handle the administrative details of the donations. Though still in the early stages of fundraising, the fund has already accumulated about $23,000 and is projected to continue growing into six figures in future years. Baker expects the scholarship to be able to continue supporting students “forever.”
On October 1, they intend to launch their support campaign with a solicitation letter, detailing the goals of the fund and how contributors can donate.
Graham offers another similar fund called the Graham Community Alumni Association Scholarship, which is filtered through the Troy Foundation and is available to all students.
However, only athletes will be eligible for the Hall scholarship, and the committee will consider components such as athletic performance, character, community service and grades. The only criteria is that the student must use the money for secondary education — a 4-year university, a trade school or any skilled training.
“We don’t want to get any more specific than (secondary education), because in today’s day and age, we’re open to trade skills as well as academic education,” Baker said. Hall himself expressed his support of the committee’s stance on this issue.
Students can apply for this award between November and February, and upon receipt of their applications, a Donor’s Selection Committee made up of Hall, Dwain Hollingsworth, Lewis, Shell and Baker will meet to choose the recipient.
Baker hopes that in the first year, the committee will be able to choose 2 or 3 students to award a one-time amount of between $1,000-$2,000.
Baker vocalized the committee’s hopes that the scholarship will make a positive impact on students’ lives for years to come.
“The committee recognizes how much tougher it’s getting to afford secondary education,” Baker said. “Couple that with everyone’s admiration for Donzil, his service and his dedication to Graham High School, and those two make an excellent marriage to help kids onward and upward.”
Hall himself looks forward to the assistance the fund will provide for students and wishes to thank the community for their support.
“I’m sure that the students that get it will be appreciative of it. I’m just glad to see it happen,” He said. “We’re just happy we’re a part of the community.”
Reach Katie at UDCeditor@aimmediamidwest.com.