In spring 2022, the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation highlighted one of their funds, the Forrest Willey Memorial Scholarship Fund. At that time, the Forrest Willey Scholarship Fund had a balance of around $7000. The fund awarded three $500 scholarships in 2022: two to students at the Grand Rapids High School (GRHS) and one to a student at Northern Lights Community School.
Since that time, there has been over $32,800 in donations to the Forrest Willey Scholarship Fund from a variety of donors, including Grand Rapids High School alumni classes, individuals and organizations. These donations were put into an endowment, which will allow the funds to continue to grow and be available to offer scholarships far into the future. With this increase in donations, the fund advisors for this scholarship plan to help more young people next year by giving out three $1000 scholarships!
October 5, 2022, marks the 56th anniversary of the school shooting that ended up taking Mr. Forrest Willey’s life. This school shooting on October 5, 1966, was one of the first, if not the first school shooting in Minnesota. It was 33 years before the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.
The Grand Rapids High School Class of 1966 created this fund in 2016, on the 50th anniversary of the shooting, to honor the memory and bravery of Forrest Willey. Mr. Willey, a Grand Rapids High School Administrator, was shot and killed as he attempted to take a gun away from a student who had just shot a 14-year old classmate. News stories say that the shooter was bullied and teased by some of his classmates and came to the school that day to exact revenge.
The Herald Review, at the time, reported there were hundreds of students and teachers in the parking area where the shooting occurred. Mr. Willey showed immense bravery and put his life at risk to try to stop the student before he harmed more people. Willey attempted to take the gun away from the shooter, but was hit by a bullet and collapsed. The shooter then ran off school property. Mr. Willey died in the hospital eight days later.
Forrest Willey is remembered by students of that time as an exemplary leader; one whom they felt really cared about them as people. Local resident and Class of 1966 student, Nancy Roy Arnhold, still has letters she received, and treasures, from Mr. Willey during her high school years. One such letter stated, “Dear Nancy: I was very pleased to learn that you were selected to receive the Senior Leadership Recognition Award. It is a well-deserved honor and you are to be commended for it as well as for your outstanding record in high school. Sincerely, Forrest L. Willley, Director, Secondary Education.”
Thank you to all of the generous donors to the Forrest Willey Memorial Scholarship Fund. Your donations lift up area youth!
If you would like to honor Forrest Willey and give to his legacy of helping students, you can donate to his fund at the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation. You can donate online at www.gracf.org/donate and search for Forrest Willey Memorial Scholarship. You can also send or drop off donations to the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation at 350 NW 1st Avenue, Suite E, Grand Rapids, MN 55744.