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Plant High graduates show their generosity

Alumni at the South Tampa school give $38,000 in scholarships to the class of '02.

By AMY SCHERZER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 24, 2002


PALMA CEIA -- With a flip of a tassel, Plant High seniors become alumni on Tuesday.

That's a heavy burden at Plant, where their predecessors donated $38,000 in scholarships this year.

"You will seldom find a high school with this much support," said Margaret Gandy, the school's guidance resource specialist.

"The Plant community is particularly close and proud."

The alumni bequests -- part of Plant's $5-million scholarship program -- illustrate the depth of an old school's pockets. Plant is 75. Newer high schools bide their time, waiting for philanthropy.

"Plant has been very proactive in soliciting their alumni. Plant City, King, Chamberlain and Hillsborough high schools are also good at utilizing their alumni and business partners," said Cheri Donohue, associate director of grants for the Hillsborough Education Foundation.

For comparison, earlier this week, the Jefferson High Alumni Association disbursed $5,000, including the D.W. Waters Scholarship named for the first principal.

At Plant, awards range from $500 to $2,500, or sometimes more in special cases.

Plant's two newest scholarships honor two grads well-known in South Tampa, Jane Perdigon Martineau, Class of '54, and Jack Romano, Class of '56. Both died of cancer last year.

"My son and I knew it would make her happy," said Martineau's husband, Joseph, a South Tampa prosthedontist. "Plant was a special place for my wife."

Her mother, Georgia Lee, graduated in 1937. Her son, Sean, graduated in 1988.

Martineau taught English at Plant, as well as King and Hillsborough high schools and Berkeley Preparatory School. She was one of the first parents to volunteer in the guidance resource room, working with students on their application essays.

The first Martineau award for $1,000 went to Ashley Russell to attend the University of Florida.

"Jane woke up every morning trying to figure out a way to make somebody's life better that day," said Joseph Martineau.

Friends and family of Jack Romano would say that sounds like him, too.

An advertising executive, Romano served on boards for Tampa General Hospital, the Tampa Museum of Art and United Way, among others. The winner of the Romano Scholarship must exemplify civic pride and community spirit to receive $2,500 per year for four years.

DePauw University-bound Lauren Archerd is the first recipient.

Other charities were considered, but Plant won out.

"Plant High School is seen as a launching pad for students who tend to come back and give to the community like Jack did," said Jim Ferman Jr. He and Romano's skiing buddies raised $250,000 to fund the scholarship.

"What happens there, I believe, is alumni saying, 'I value my education at Plant High School, and this is where I want my legacy to go,' " says George Baxter, president of the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay. Baxter administers the Romano fund and the Patty Neblett Hartsock Fund. Bart Hartsock set up the scholarship for female graduates in memory of his late wife.

Tragedy led to the establishment of two recent scholarships.

The Amy Gail Buchman Memorial Scholarship recalls a Plant cheerleader, yearbook editor and president of the Zeta service club. Buchman and a friend were killed when a vehicle struck their taxi after a night out in Miami. She was 24.

"The award goes to an all-around, enthusiastic student who is much like Amy," said Gandy.

Jeff and Nancy Miller established a perpetual endowment in memory of their daughter, Meredith. The salutatorian of the class of 1989 and Princeton graduate was killed at age 23 when she tried to escape a carjacking outside her Arlington, Va., apartment complex. She had just begun graduate school at George Washington University.

Applicants are judged by essays submitted on two issues important to Miller: disadvantaged people and domestic violence.

And the list goes on, with scholarships for athletics, academics and for "doing good."

The Jean Stallings Memorial, $1,000, goes to the top Honors English student. Stallings, a former Times reporter, taught English at Plant before becoming a school district supervisor. She died of heart failure at age 48.

"She really developed her love of teaching there," said her brother, Norman Stallings Jr.

The Judy Blanchard Scholarship honors the former PTSA president with five awards of $1,000 each. The PTSA matches the Blanchard family contribution.

The Haynes-Barrs Scholarship honors Plant grads Chris and Wright Barrs. Recipients are chosen for community work.

Stephen Whitehouse didn't attend Plant but his mother, assistant principal Annamae Johnson, started a scholarship for a senior going to Georgia Tech. Whitehouse died of cancer in 1996.

Not all of the funds are memorials. Anne and Worth Dunn, parents of three Plant grads, set up a scholarship they could direct. Anne is a former principal of Grady Elementary; Worth is a physician.

"Education and medicine majors are considered, but not exclusively," said Gandy. "They review the applications and look for someone who will be able to study at the school of their choice with just the extra help."

- Reporter Amy Scherzer can be reached at 226-3332 or scherzer@sptimes.com.

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