Memorial scholarship helps students overcome learning challenges
When professor Pat Gavin stepped up to the podium to pay tribute to his late son Gage Gavin, he expected to see only close friends and family – but instead was surrounded by hundreds who had been touched by Gage and his family. Gavin is director of the PGA Golf Management Program in the NMSU College of Business, and at that moment on the podium, looking out on those caring faces, he had a vision: a way to remember Gage and the great person he was, and also help future students with scholarship support, allowing them to focus on their schooling instead of worrying about how to pay for it.
Gage had recently turned 18 and graduated from Oñate High School when he passed away unexpectedly in June 2015. Graduating meant more to Gage than anyone could have known, and surpassed a milestone that Pat and his family had fought so hard for. Gage struggled with a learning disability, but never let that get him down. He was a loving person and was quick to share a hug and smile with his brother and sister, as well as the people he met during his nightly visits to the community dog park or on the trails up to Aguirre Springs with his mom.
“Simply put Gage was everyone’s best friend,” Pat says. “He always put what would help others before worrying about what would help him.”
During Gage’s eulogy, full of laughter and tears, Pat made an announcement that he would be establishing an endowment in Gage’s memory at NMSU. Instead of his initial goal of $50,000 in three years, he pledged he would raise $50,000 in three weeks. It sounded like an impossible feat, but a week after establishing the endowment through the NMSU Foundation, it had grown to $20,000, and after three weeks, it was over $65,000. Pat increased the goal to $100,000, hoping it would help even more students pursue their educational dreams.
The Gage Gavin Endowed Scholarship was established to support the PGA Golf Management Program, with preference given to students with a documented learning disability. It was Gage’s dream to work at the NMSU golf course along with his dad. To qualify for the scholarship, a recipient must have a minimum of 2.5 grade-point average. Many merit-based scholarships are awarded to students with the best grade points, but it was Pat's intention to help students with learning disabilities succeed in reaching their goals, regardless of their grades.
In the short time available, it already has made a difference for Kyle Sidlo, a two-time recipient of the scholarship who came to Las Cruces from San Diego. Kyle is happy to have the perfect weather for golfing and the support of the Gage Gavin Endowed Scholarship to allow him to focus on his studies.
“It’s a tight group, like a fraternity or sorority,” says Kyle, who is in his junior year. “When we heard about Gage, everyone came together to support Pat. He is our mentor and we love everything he has made available to us. “Kyle is similar to Gage in that he was diagnosed with a learning disability that increased his test anxiety. For Kyle, an added half hour to take a test makes all the difference. His parents discovered it when he was in elementary school and like Gage's parents, helped him to seek out opportunities to make his achievements possible.
Pat believes the endowment is a way to remember and honor Gage, and help his family find some peace in their grief.
“I miss him every day. We miss him every day,” Pat says. “This endowment allows us to meet and help students and make a difference.”
He says the love and support the family has received through donations of money, flowers, phone calls and messages was beyond their imagination.
“I’ll continue to thank people forever,” he says. “It meant a lot to see the outpouring of respect for Gage and our family. It was a way to take a horrible negative situation and find something positive in it.
Kyle agrees. “This is a way for Gage’s memory to live on.”
Kyle Sidlo, right, was the first recipient of the Gage Gavin, was the first recipient of the Gage Gavin Memorial Endowed Scholarship, which was established by New Mexico State University marketing professor Pat Gavin, left, in honor of his son