How do you honor a person, who played such a critical role in a community, and was taken too soon from it? Jerry Specht answered that question when he, Ken Bates, Boni Jensen, and the community of Green Lake, established the Charlie Marks Memorial Scholarship Fund at the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation to honor Charlie Marks.
Marks passed away unexpectedly on January 4, 2019, and left the small community of Green Lake stunned by the news. He had been the Sanitary District Administrator since 1996 and was a champion for Big Green Lake as well as the surrounding smaller lakes and streams in Green Lake County. According to Specht, a Sanitary District Commissioner, along with Bates, and Jensen, establishing a scholarship fund to honor Marks name was the logical choice, as he valued education, liked kids, and created numerous programs for students to help maintain the environment of the waters around the area. Specht noted, “We want students to continue in Charlie’s footsteps. We are hoping to develop another Charlie.”
The Scholarship Fund is awarded to graduating seniors from Berlin and Green Lake High School, who intend to pursue a career in the environmental field and will attend a two or four-year college. Since it was established, six scholarships have been awarded (two per year) for the past three years and the value of the fund has grown to about $26,000. Specht hopes to grow it to $40,000 which will allow it to fund two $1,000 scholarships a year.
The fund is promoted during the holiday season as well the end of the school year. Recipients are chosen by a small sub-committee comprising of school representatives, people who worked with Charlie, his family and close friends. Recipients must be passionate about environmental issues such as air or water quality, exhibit outstanding character, and be active in their school or community. The criteria were quite easy to set as they reflect who Charlie was as a person.
Charlie led by example. According to Specht, he was a leader, a teacher, and he cared about everyone. His order of priorities was God, family and the Green Lake community. He disliked being behind a desk, preferring to be in the field, and was never shy about stepping up for a project that would protect the lake and waterways. He was a community person who would get everyone involved. He built relationships that would last a lifetime and made a point to get to know people on a personal level. According to Specht, “Charlie trained us all to be better people; honest and fair.”
Cathy Marks, Charlies wife, believes Charlie would love having the scholarship in his name. She notes that his father was an educator, and he himself loved learning. “He would think it was awesome!” she stated during a recent conversation. “Charlie was smart, genuine and loved anything that kept environmental things going and healthy. He learned on the job as he went, and loved being in the field. He would be honored.”
Cathy likes the idea of growing the scholarship fund and appreciates Specht’s desire to see it reach $40,000. She states, “this is so much better than donating a park bench or something like that. To help educate kids is exactly what Charlie would choose to do.”