Keeping a promise
As a result of a promise to the community that made his education possible, a Crook County High School alumnus left a legacy for a scholarship fund for future CCHS students who aspire to college.
Before he died in 2012, Byron Wayne Meadows, a former graduate of Crook County High School, created a trust that named CCSD the beneficiary. Although the district receives larger grants, Meadows' donation is the largest of its kind to date for Crook County Schools, with $826,979.11 dedicated to scholarships.
Meadows graduated from Crook County School District in 1955. He received the Ochoco Scholarship, which paid for his college at the University of Oregon and the University of Vienna, Austria. In a letter he sent to the Crook County School District in 1994, Meadows said, "Without your financial assistance, it would have been very difficult for me to complete college."
Jerry Culpepper, nephew to Meadows and the trustee for his property, said that his uncle grew up in difficult circumstances, and they would not have had the money to send him to college. Culpepper said that in high school his uncle preferred playing musical instruments, listening to classical music and reading classic books to sports and logging in the woods. Meadows also liked riding big, fast Harley Davidsons. His father was always concerned about the bikes and his safety.
"He didn't want to be in Prineville (after graduation)," Culpepper said.
Meadows resigned himself to being stuck in Prineville. His father was a master mechanic for Hudspeth Pine Products. He worked with a family member in the woods in the summer.
"He knew that wasn't the life he wanted to do," Culpepper said.
The principal at Crook County High School in 1955 was Wilfred Burgess. Meadows' senior year, Burgess called him in to his office, and told him, "I have some scholarship money, and there are some good people of Prineville who are willing to assist you in going to school."
At that meeting with Burgess, Meadows made a promise to pay that scholarship money back to the Crook County School District.
"That put this whole thing in motion — was that promise he made to Mr. Burgess," Culpepper said. In his 1994 letter, Meadows said, "I promised Mr. Burgess, who was then the high school principal, that I would eventually pay back the money which the good citizens of Prineville gave to me for my education. I am fulfilling that promise by making you the primary beneficiary of my living trust."
After graduating from CCHS, Meadows was drafted into the Army. He graduated from the University of Oregon in 1960. Meadows not only attended University of Oregon, but he attended one year at the University of Vienna, Austria, where he studied music, German and French.
After completing college, Meadows was very successful in his career. He became a programmer at the Los Angeles Police Department. He started when computers were in their infancy and took up an entire room.
Several years later, an employee from an aerospace firm in San Diego, California, spotted Meadows' talent as a programmer and recruited him. He also invested in condominiums near the entrance of Mission Bay, an aquatic park in San Diego.
Culpepper said that in Meadows' letter, that property was referred to for the intended amount he wished to leave to the school district. Meadows initially informed Crook County Schools of his intentions to set up the trust at that time and met with a CCSD representative again in 2007. Culpepper said Meadows visited the school district in 2007, and he brought forward an addendum to the trust. He once again presented his intentions for his trust — including his real property to be turned over to the district upon his passing.
"Everything just set still for a long time," said Culpepper of the trust.
In 2005, Meadows had a tragic accident on Madras Highway while visiting old classmates in Prineville during his 50-year class reunion. He died in 2012 as an indirect result of the injuries from the accident.
According to a news release by Crook County School District, the trust consisted of the real property assets in San Diego, which was to be used as a residence for the caretaker for the rest of his life. After the caretaker died in December 2018, the property was sold, and the proceeds, after expenses, were to be donated to CCSD.
When Culpepper's mother died in 2018, he was notified that he had become the trustee for his uncle's real property. After a year of getting things in order, Culpepper presented the funds to Crook County Schools.
CCSD Director of Business and Finance Anna Logan said the district received the money Dec. 30 and has deposited it into a new, special investment account.
CCSD will form a Byron Wayne Meadows Memorial Scholarship Committee and hopes to award CCHS seniors this spring.
The five-member committee will include two school board members, two CCSD employees and one community member. The board will appoint committee members annually. Once the committee forms, it will recommend to the board the scholarship criteria, as well as the dollar amount and number of scholarships it will award.
"Crook County School District leaders believe every student should pursue post-high school education, whether that's college, trade school or an associate's degree," said CCSD Board Chair Scott Cooper. "Unfortunately, access to additional education is a stretch for many students for a variety of reasons. A community scholarship helps knock down barriers and sends a message to a graduating senior, 'We believe in you, so we're investing in you.'"
At the closing of the 1994 letter to CCSD, Meadows added, "If you know where Mr. Burgess lives, I would appreciate it very much if you would let him know that I did keep my promise."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.