When Ronan FitzPatrick, Stephen Driscoll and the late Edward Johnson began canvassing the pubs and businesses and organizations throughout Charlestown in 1969 for donations to a new local scholarship for their friend, Michael Quinn, who had died in Vietnam, they were asking for a dollar here or a dollar there.
They were happy to start small.
What they could have never predicted is that the effort would eventually yield one of the most successful and helpful scholarship funds in the neighborhood, having now given away 45 awards totaling $155,000 to aspiring Charlestown students.
Right now, the Lt. Michael P. Quinn Scholarship Fund is taking applications in order to give out the 46th award this coming May.
“We never could have predicted our effort would have grown as it has,” said FitzPatrick in a recent interview. “We’d go into the bars and the stores to ask for money – whatever we could get. Things were tough; it was the 1970s. We’d ask for $1. The next year it was $5. It just grew from there…We’ve had lawyers, doctors, consultants and educators – all walks of life – who have received the scholarship. We’ve given out $155,000 to 21 males and 24 females.”
The namesake of the scholarship, Michael Quinn, grew up in the housing developments of Charlestown and was able to get the opportunity to attend Boston Latin.
At Latin, he was a top student and athlete, becoming an all-scholastic in both hockey and football.
Those achievements landed him a scholarship to Holy Cross University where he was co-captain of the hockey team.
Quinn went on to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps during Vietnam as a lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion 7th Marines 1st Marine Division. He served valiantly, but sadly on Aug. 29, 1969, he was killed in action some 28 miles south of DaNang.
“He was a phenomenal individual who died at 23 years old,” said FitzPatrick. “In 23 years, he accomplished more than most people do in a lifetime.”
Trying to focus their grief in a positive way, FitzPatrick, Powers and Johnson decided to establish a scholarship to honor Quinn’s memory.
From it’s humble beginnings, the scholarship has grown to provide quite a lot to needy students in Charlestown.
The award now is worth $6,000, and after their first year of college the winner can qualify for another $3,000 via the Francis J. McCluskey Supplementary Award. It makes a total of $9,000 for successful students.
Last year, the award went to Bridgette Collier, who went to Boston Latin and is now at the University of Connecticut.
The criteria include:
- promise of academic success as shown in high scholastic attainment and an active, inquiring mind.
- substantial athletic achievement in at least one sport
- responsible citizenship demonstrated through participation in service-oriented activities in school, church or community.
- candidate must be a graduating senior or high school graduate.
- candidate must establish financial need.
- candidate must have lived in Charlestown for at least four years at the time of application.
“Financial need is definitely a big part of this because Michael could have never attended Holy Cross without getting his scholarship,” said FitzPatrick. Applicants can get applications from his or her high school guidance office, or he or she can get an application by writing to the Michael P. Quinn Scholarship Fund; P.O. Box 290216; Charlestown, MA 02129.