Chester Norton's gift keeps on giving

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Andover - posted Mon., Jul. 1, 2013
Contributed
This year's Norton Scholarship winner, Andrew Burke, at the 2013 RHAM High School graduation ceremony with fellow graduate, Marlborough resident Kelsey Hasset. Courtesy photos. - Contributed Photo

Recent RHAM graduate Andrew Burke was the recipient this year of a small scholarship with a big history. “Local legend has it that when Chester [Norton] was a child, his poor family could not afford the eyeglasses he needed,” said Andover Norton Children’s Commission member Dianne Grenier. “A kindly gentleman provided the family with funds for Chester’s eyeglasses,” continued Grenier. “Chester never forgot that act of kindness.”

Upon Chester Norton’s death in 1891, he left money which - upon the death of his wife, Emily, in 1915 - went toward the establishment of several different charities to benefit the children of Andover: $3,000 for the First Congregational Church, $3,000 for the Andover Elementary School, $3,000 for the Andover Public Library and $3,000 for the poor children of Andover.

The “Norton Children’s Fund Commission” currently meets twice a year (May and November) to expend the interest income from the Norton Fund in accordance with Chester D. Norton’s will. “Over the years these funds have provided Andover children with cod liver oil, tonsillectomies, shoes, rubbers, slippers, eyeglasses, eye exams, dental work, back packs and small scholarships for continued education,” said Grenier.

Since the establishment of the “Norton Children’s Commission,” other funds have been added to be distributed by the Commission. In 1995, Rooney Mooney of Andover established the “Irene Mooney Children’s Fund” in memory of his wife. In 1991, the Norton Children’s Commission established the Norton Scholarship to help an Andover high school senior continue their education.

“In the early 2000s, interest rates fell drastically and interest income available for distribution from all funds was incredibly low,” said Grenier. The Norton Scholarship was in jeopardy. The Norton Children’s Commission started a campaign. “Now we have several people in town who make annual contributions,” said Grenier. These contributions, along with other donations, allow the fund to continue giving. This year’s Norton Scholarship was $300.

“Every little bit of money helps,” said the recipient, recent RHAM graduate and Andover resident Andrew Burke, saying that he will likely use the money to help pay for books. Burke will attend Westfield State University in Massachusetts in the fall, where he plans to study communications. During his years at RHAM High School, Burke participated in many activities. He was a member of the basketball team all four years, the junior varsity captain in his sophomore year and varsity captain in his senior year. He also participated on the RHAM High School cross-country team. For his junior and senior years, Burke was given the Coach’s Award by RHAM basketball coach Steve Emt. “I wasn’t the best player on the team, but I was the vocal leader and kind of a role model for the other players,” said Burke.

It was Burke’s receipt of an Outstanding Senior Award for demonstrating thoughtfulness, integrity, courtesy, accountability and caring for oneself and the RHAM community that especially caught Grenier’s eye. “Who wouldn’t be proud of their kid for that?” asked Grenier.

As a junior and a senior, Burke was involved in the RHAM journalism monthly newspaper, recently renamed “The Wall Street Chronicle.” For his senior year, Burke served as the sports editor of the newspaper and published his own monthly column, “Get Burked,” which allowed him to provide his own insight into various current issues in the sports world. He credits the paper’s advisors, English teacher Margaret Clifton and art teacher Shelley Osowiecki, with providing students with guidance while at the same time allowing them creative freedom. “After the first few months, it really became the editors’ paper,” said Burke. “I had a lot of freedom so I really liked it.”

Burke said he was also inspired by ESPN-sponsored website, Grantland.com. “They look at sports differently, it’s more in-depth coverage,” he said. “So I tried to model my coverage after that. I wanted to give people a reason to read the paper.”

Burke would eventually like to pursue a career in sports journalism, and hopes to help encourage the continuance of print journalism. “Having a physical paper in your hand is an important part of the history of journalism,” he said.

Burke points to the advent of technology as contributing toward the degradation of journalistic integrity, using the Sandy Hook shootings in Newtown and the Boston Marathon bombing coverage as examples. “People were falling all over themselves to get the stories out first, which led to mistakes,” he said. An emphasis on speed eliminates the usual checks and balances of fact-checking and editing, “which leads to a loss of honesty and integrity in journalism,” said Burke.

Donations to the Norton’s Children’s Fund can be sent to the Town of Andover at 17 School Road, Andover, CT, 06232.


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