The South Gibson Dollars for Scholars Sumner-Highsmith Scholarship may have been established with the Gibson County Community Foundation in 1994, but it has been in existence for many years. It was first awarded in 1945, not long after William J. (Billy) Sumner, a Navy pilot, was declared missing in action after his aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Ommaney Bay, was struck down over the South Pacific.
Sumner’s mother, Gladys Sumner-Highsmith, and her family established the scholarship to honor his memory and military service. The scholarship has been awarded to outstanding seniors at Gibson Southern High School for over sixty years.
Sumner graduated in 1939 from Owensville High School, where he was class president. He was considered an outstanding athlete and was admired by the community for his friendliness, compassion and humility. After his graduation, he enrolled at Purdue University but his studies were cut short when he was called to active duty during World War II.
In 1994, the Sumner-Highsmith family, together with the South Gibson Dollars for Scholars, established an endowment with the Foundation to ensure that the Sumner-Highsmith scholarship would carry on in perpetuity. The family has continued to support the fund with regular contributions ever since, helping the fund grow to become a significant resource to students pursuing advanced education.
“We are very honored to be entrusted with this fund and to help carry on the long tradition of this award,” said Marlene Obert, the Foundation’s former board president. “It is an important legacy that our entire community can be proud of—one that memorializes a fine, distinguished man who gave his life serving our country.”