Sag Harbor Lions Boost Scholarships for 3 Pierson Grads to $40,000

Lions Club Scholarship winners, from left, Nancy Hallock (on behalf of her daughter Emily), Paige Schaefer and Ella Knibb with Sag Harbor Lions Club members (from left) Paul Zaykowski, Tony Lawless and Mark Poitras at the Lions Club Scholarship Dinner at the American Hotel on July 24. Mike Heller photo

Thanks to 75 donors who gave an average of $333, from $100 to $1,000, and three people who each gave $5,000, two anonymously, the Sag Harbor Lions Club this year successfully boosted its annual college scholarship for three Pierson graduates to $40,000 from the $5,000 that was given by the organization for decades.

Once a few outstanding pledges are collected, the push will be on to do it again for 2020, according to Lion Paul Zaykowski, who with club president Tony Lawless launched the drive last December to make the scholarship program more realistic in the face of soaring college costs.

Andy Sabin, the founder of the South Fork Natural History Museum, was one of the $5,000 donors, Mr. Zaykowski confirmed this week.

Announced at the club’s annual scholarship dinner at The American Hotel on July 24, the winners were Paige Schaefer, who will get a $20,000 stipend toward her tuition at Lehigh University; and Ella Knibb and Emily Hallock, who each will receive a $10,000 for their tuition at Cornell and Duke, respectively.

The winners were selected by a committee headed by Lion Mark Poitras from an initial list of 24 applicants, the most the Lions have ever had. “It took a lot of hours,” said Mr. Zaykowski, who recused himself from the process because of his many Sag Harbor connections.

The criteria for choosing the winners include academic excellence, teacher and community recommendations, a written essay, extracurricular activities, demonstrated financial need and a record of outstanding public service.

Mr. Zaykowski runs his own investment firm and Mr. Lawless owns Cromer’s Market and Noyac Liquors. Mr. Zaykowski won a $1,500 Lions Scholarship himself when he graduated from Pierson in 1973, which was almost one-third of his tuition at Bentley University in Massachusetts. In more recent years, the Lions Club’s top scholarship prize was $2,500, only 5 percent of a $50,000 tuition, which is what Mr. Zaykowski paid each year for his daughter to go to Bates.

When Mr. Lawless and Mr. Zaykowski announced the drive in December to make the scholarship program more relevant, Mr. Lawless commented, “I think those scholarships are a joke. I told Paul his $1,500 was 45 years ago. Today it kind of makes us look stupid.”

Formerly, the scholarship was funded by the proceeds of regular Lion events, including its St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage dinner at the Old Whalers’ Church and the Christmas tree sale at the John A. Ward Memorial Windmill on Windmill Beach. The Lions kicked off the scholarship drive at a cocktail reception in December at The American Hotel, whose owner, Ted Conklin, and staff won praise from Mr. Zaykowski for their support. Mr. Conklin is a Lion and donor. Some 16 people gave a total of $4,000 at the party; aside from the $15,000 given by three anonymous donors, the rest of the money came in as Mr. Lawless and Mr. Zaykowski emailed and personally contacted potential donors.

“I shake my tin cup in front of people,” said Mr. Zaykowski. “Tony and I are not professional fundraisers,” he noted, but “if it’s a good story about how Pierson is producing these wonderful, highly qualified students, we hope the story will feed on itself” and encourage future donations.

Ms. Schaefer, a National Honor Society member, was the captain of the varsity field hockey team, and plans to play at Lehigh, and captain of the girls’ basketball team. She has worked at The Dock House on Long Wharf and as a lifeguard for Southampton Town. She participated in the Marine Corps Semper Fidelis weekend program in Washington, D.C., volunteered at the South Fork Natural History Museum, and has been a service volunteer in Cambodia.

Ella Knibb, a National Honor Society member, was class president in 11thand 12thgrade; a varsity cheerleader; volunteered for Project SAFE and The Retreat; interned with County Legislator Bridget Fleming and worked for congressional candidate Perry Gershon; and has worked at Sen, the Wharf Shop and Il Cappuccino.

Emily Hallock, a National Honor Society member, was group leader of the mosquito larvae research program; the PTSA liaison; a Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor; leadership captain of the Bridgehampton-Pierson cheerleading squad; treasurer of the student council; Quiz Bowl JV and varsity captain; and worked at the Candy Kitchen and as a beach attendant for the Town of Southampton.