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Times-Herald (Vallejo, CA)

June 20, 2004

Retiring VHS teacher donates $20,000

Author: RICHARD FREEDMAN, Times-Herald staff writer

Through his 34 years as a teacher in Vallejo, Harland Bartholomew made a point to listen to people he trusted.

Fortunately, that includes handing his money to the right folks.

"It's not as if I'm a big investor," Bartholomew said. "You sometimes just get lucky."

There will be plenty of future Vallejo School seniors grateful for Bartholomew's so-called luck after the 61-year-old celebrated his retirement last week by starting the Vallejo Senior High Endowment Fund.*

Bottom line: The man Vallejo High calls Bart reached into his pocket and donated $20,000.

"I've had a couple of people tell me I shouldn't do it," Bartholomew said. "And I've had a couple walk up and say, You're my hero."

Bartholomew said he made up his mind a few months ago.

"It's not that I decided out of the blue," he said. "I had seen some others do things like this and I just decided to do it."

Bartholomew basically wanted to do what he could to ensure as many students as he could would advance to college. After all, tuition, room and board costs a bit more than the $1,200 a year Bartholomew paid when he went to Fresno State University.

"I believe in our students and want to see them accomplish all they can in life," Bartholomew said. "I am fortunate to be able to establish this fund. But this is just the beginning. It is money to get the fund started so that alumni and other community residents can donate toward the future of our young people."

Bartholomew said the fund should act as an information tool as well as a chance at college.

"Students shouldn't look at college finances as an obstacle," he said. "There is financial aid available. There's so much scholarship money out there that kids are unaware of. I hope this (the fund) helps heighten awareness."

Bartholomew hoped the other retiring teachers at Vallejo High School would chip in. Surprisingly, he said, a number of them are already doing something.

If the fund cash can help motivate students, Bartholomew is tickled even more.

"There's nothing a teacher likes more than serious, motivated students," Bartholomew said. "And that keeps the teacher motivated. I'm hoping people will see that and support that."

Bartholomew said, "Making this donation maybe is a way to put a little closure to the career I've had."

Applying for scholarships or not, students should do what they can to attend college, Bartholomew said.

"I tell kids that if their purpose in life is to make the world a little nicer for everyone else, they can do that better with an education," Bartholomew said. "And they'll probably be able to touch more people."