North High School Alumnus Donates $1.25 Million to Start Scholarship Program

DES MOINES, Iowa – North High School in Des Moines has received a generous donation from an alumnus in order to start a scholarship fund.

Jerry Torrence graduated from North High School in 1953. He was an only child and had no children. In 2015 he died at the age of 80 and the school received a letter.

North High School Principal Ben Graeber said, “Six years ago we got a letter that we should come to a funeral because this individual had died and was a North graduate. It took years for us to get any more information really.”

In March the school received a check for $250,000 to be used to start a scholarship fund.

Graeber said that the scholarship fund would be for qualifying students that have at least a 3.0 GPA and will be attending either University of Iowa, Iowa State University or the University of Northern Iowa.

“It’s just an emotional boost. It means that students' lives are going to be changed for the better. A huge financial burden will be taken off of their plates,” Graeber said.

Graeber said Torrence's will states the donation is to help students out paying for tuition all four years of college.

The first recipient, Caleb Slayter, received $1,800 to go toward college tuition this past year.

This summer the school received a second check for $1 million to go into the Jerry Torrence Scholarship fund.

“I’m no banker, but I think we will be able to give away $50,000 or more each year. Up to probably $100,000 each year depending on how the interest does,” Graeber said.

Graeber said if the school shuts down, the money will go to Torrence's college alma mater the University of Iowa.

"The vision of it is that it will never dip below a million and we will always have the interest to give away," Graeber said.

Graeber said the school is not sure how many students will receive the scholarship or how much each student will receive at the moment.

“I want parents and students to be motivated by this. I think if I was walking in as a freshman and I knew this carrot existed at the end of my high school career, I would just get excited about the opportunity to prove that I was worthy to get this money,” Graeber said.

Graeber said about one-third of each senior class has at least a 3.0 GPA and qualifies for the scholarship.

North High School seniors interested in applying will need to submit a personal statement starting in January 2020.

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