January 19, 2022

St. Mary’s Circle Scholarship

It’s that time again! Applications for the annual Martha Lee Kuersteiner Scholarship of St. Mary’s Circle are due on April 1, 2022. Rising college juniors can apply for this $1,500 scholarship to help support their remaining college education. Read on for information about the 2022 scholarship award, as well as how the scholarship came to be, and a rundown of some past scholarship recipients.

What is St. Mary’s Circle?

This women’s group was founded at St. John’s in 1933, with a goal of supporting church improvement projects. For nearly 90 years, the group has taken on projects that improve parish life at St. John’s. Their primary project is this annual scholarship, awarded to a rising college junior.

History of the Scholarship

In the early 1980s, a young man named Everett Puri was faced with a problem. He was on his way to finishing his degree at Sewanee (The University of the South), but his father was very ill and it was looking like the young man would not be able to return to school. Word reached St. Mary’s Circle at St. John’s Episcopal Church, where Puri had grown up, and the Circle helped Everett Puri with funds so that he could complete his college education.

Quite a few years later, Everett Puri repaid this gift from St. Mary’s Circle with a gift of his own in the form of a cash donation from the sale of some stock he owned. Puri asked that St. Mary’s Circle and St. John’s use this money to establish a scholarship fund for another college student who might be in similar circumstances, or was deserving of support. He requested that the fund be named after Martha Lee Kuersteiner, a close family friend and long-time member of St. John’s. Everett Puri went on to graduate from college. He is now a broker with J.P. Morgan Securities, a past Trustee of Sewanee, and he serves on the University’s Board of Regents.

Scholarship Winners

The scholarship fund is now in its 29th year. Neil Strayer is the 2021 scholarship recipient. He is studying in Dublin, Ireland this year. The first recipient was Andy Ashler, son of Betty and Phil Ashler. Andy recently completed a term on the St. John’s vestry. Others through the years were Cecilia Graham Varnum, daughter of Jim Graham and granddaughter of the Rev. Lee and Betty Graham; Michel Lester Gregory and Mary Hall Lester Chambers, daughters of Trilly Lester; Cecelia Zucconi-Evans, longtime choir member; Fraleigh Krause, daughter of Robin Krause; Marissa Hall, past graduate student at FSU and Sacred Music Intern for Betsy Calhoun; plus several staff members’ children including Tom and Sam Doxsee and Cassie LaJeunesse.

Past St. Mary’s Circle Scholarship Scholarship recipients have gone on to successful professions, started families, and become active community servants in the areas they now call home. But they will always be a part of our St. John’s family.

2022 Scholarship Eligibility

Applications are currently being accepted for the 2022 Martha Lee Kuersteiner Scholarship, a $1,500 need- and merit- based award. Rising college juniors known to have participated in worship at St. John’s are eligible to apply. To be considered for the scholarship, students must share a completed application, a current college transcript, a written essay, and two letters of recommendation, one of which must be from the church rector. Completed application packets must be mailed to the provided address or returned to the church office by April 1, 2022.

Applications are also available in the church office. Please contact Virginia Perkins with any questions.

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