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Gossett Family endows new scholarship at APSU

8/30/2012

            CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – One morning in the early 1930s, during the height of the Great Depression, a young man named Charles Bruno showed up at the Ford Motor Co. looking for a job. A line of applicants stretched down the block, so Bruno and his brother crawled under a fence to get closer to the front door.

            The company was looking for experienced welders. Bruno, the son of Italian immigrants, only had a seventh-grade education at the time, and he hardly knew what a welding rod looked like. But he had a new wife and a family to support, and his determination impressed the man in charge of hiring. He gave Bruno a job.

            That day turned out to be the beginning of a long and illustrious career that led Bruno to become a pioneer in the field of aluminum welding. He left Ford several years later to serve as chief welding engineer with the Reynolds Aluminum Co., where he received patents on several of his inventions, authored numerous books on welding, traveled the country as a lecturer and, later in his career, worked as a consultant for the Oak Ridge Atomic Commission and for NASA.           

            “To me, that says you need something in your honor,” Marian Gossett (’55, ’56), Bruno’s daughter, said on a recent August afternoon.

            A plaque with her father’s picture on it now hangs outside the Charles Bruno Lecture Hall in the Austin Peay State University Sundquist Science Complex. About 10 years ago, Marion and her husband Robert Gossett (’56) named the room after her father, and in doing so, created an endowed scholarship for the APSU biology department. Over the years, that gift has provided dozens of deserving students with the opportunity to earn college degrees.

            But the need is still so great in the community that the Gossetts have now decided to endow another scholarship for nursing in the hope that many of their peers will follow suit.

           “You don’t have to start big,” Robert said as he sipped coffee from a red APSU mug. “You don’t need to have a hundred thousand dollars at the top. I think that scares a lot of people away. We decided that we’re going to be contributing every year in our lifetime. It’ll keep growing and growing.”

          An endowed scholarship at APSU provides a lasting tribute to a person of the donor’s choice. An endowment of $25,000 provides a $1,000 annual scholarship to a deserving student. The corpus of the endowment is not invaded and thereby assures a legacy to the donor and will perpetually benefit Austin Peay students. 

           Marian said they decided to endow a nursing scholarship because the field attracts nontraditional students, such as single mothers, who often have difficulty paying for college.

          “We talked it over and decided that was a place we wanted to endow,” she said. “We both paid our own way through school, but I don’t think you can do that now.”

            The new Gossett Family Endowed Scholarship will begin distributing financial awards to qualified nursing students next year. For Robert and Marion, the endowment also serves as a tribute to their 56 years of marriage. The couple met on the Austin Peay campus one afternoon in the early 1950s.

            “It was in the basement of the Browning building,” Marion said. “That was the meeting place, the student center. The first time I ever saw him, he’d come out of a P.E. class and twisted his ankle, and he came down the steps on crutches.”

           The two quickly became a couple. Robert then graduated from Austin Peay in 1956 with his Bachelor of Arts in business. Marion, who’d already earned her B.A. from the University, also graduated that year with her Master of Arts in Education.

            “One day I got my M.A. and the next day I got my M.R.S,” she said, referring to her becoming Mrs. Robert Gossett.  “So I got three degrees.”

            “I got the third degree,” Robert joked, “and I’ve been getting it ever since.”

            To learn more about endowing a scholarship at APSU, contact the University’s Advancement Office at 931-221-7199 or advancement@apsu.edu.