During the Hiland High School Honors and Scholarship Banquet on Saturday, May 15, at Carlisle Inn Walnut Creek, Hershberger shared about the importance of remembering the man called Coach, and the value that has been created by the Perry Reese Jr. Memorial Scholarship.
"I had a freshman walk into my office, look at Perry's picture on the filing cabinet and ask who it was," said Hershberger, as he addressed the crowd. "That kind of threw me for a little bit of a zinger. I kind of assumed that everyone knew Coach Reese. I started thinking about it, and I realized that it is going to be 10 years (since he passed away in November 2000.) We don't want to forget."
So Hershberger used his time at the microphone to talk about Reese's scholarship, which has been used for the past decade to provide $1,000, four-year renewable scholarships to two students, one a senior, the other a student who needed financial aid to go to college.
Hershberger said that following Reese's diagnosis of cancer, he spoke a great deal about using his money in some way for the kids. From the very first day Reese came to Holmes County, a black man in a seemingly foreign country, he left little doubt that he was and always would be about taking care of the youth and helping them grow as people.
"All Coach talked about was how he wanted to use the money he had left to help the kids," said Hershberger. "That's all that mattered to him."
Once they were finally able to establish the idea of a scholarship, between Reese's savings and the community diving into the scholarship idea wholeheartedly, the fund began to grow, to the point where the interest it was earning was creating even more scholarships.
The fund currently stands at $219,000, and the school has now provided 20 scholarships in Reese's name. "That just blows me away," said Hershberger. "That's $80,000 worth of scholarships.
"And there's a lot of people in this room tonight who have donated to Perry's scholarship, and I think that is one of the neatest things we can do, to almost make it feel like we are still in contact with Coach and carrying on the legacy he created here.
"That question just really got to me the other day. To think that today's younger students didn't know Perry Reese is heartbreaking, and I feel sorry for them, because they missed out on an amazing person and a great opportunity."
Hiland senior basketball player Jordan Miller and classmate and super-fan Caleb Hawkins recently became the newest in a growing list of Hiland graduates that have benefited from Reese's caring and generosity.
"It feels like we are losing the memory of Perry, and all he's done for our community," said Hershberger, summarizing what Reese meant to the community, even in death. "I don't ever want to lose that. What he has done and what he left is unbelievable."