Stowers Elementary School Principal Catherine ‘Missy’ Lennard holds a certificate that notes an earlier tally for the school’s Dr. Earl J. Lennard Scholarship Fund donation, which teachers surprised her with at an earlier faculty meeting. With Lennard are teachers Carly Brook, left, and Elissa Walters. The smiling photo in the background is of Richard ‘Dick’ Stowers, a lifelong friend of the Lennard family.

By Linda Chion Kenney

In honor of their principal, and in posthumous memory of Catherine ‘Missy’ Lennard’s father, the staff at Stowers Elementary School raised $1,200 for the newly launched Dr. Earl J. Lennard Scholarship Fund.

“It was a huge surprise,” said Catherine, principal of Richard ‘Dick’ Stowers Elementary School in FishHawk. “It really means a lot to me.”

Her father, the namesake of Dr. Earl J. Lennard High School in Ruskin, died on December 23, 2019 at age 77 after being hospitalized with a prolonged illness since Thanksgiving in 2018.

One of nine siblings from a farming family, Dr. Earl entered the Hillsborough County school system as a first grader at Palm River Elementary and retired in 2005 as its superintendent of schools. He also served as the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections.

At its January 17 dinner, the Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce launched the scholarship fund, run in partnership with the Riverview Woman’s Club. To be eligible for scholarship consideration, a senior must live in Riverview or have a family member in good standing with the Riverview chamber or Riverview Woman’s Club.

Behind the Stowers Lennard scholarship drive were teachers Elissa Walters and Carly Brook, who attended Dr. Earl’s Celebration of Life at Lennard High on January 11.

“Just hearing about his life I felt changed a little bit, just by knowing who he was and what he did for kids, how important it was for him to figure out what the kids needed and do right by them,” Walters said.

Brook said she was moved by “how genuine his character was,” a trait she finds in Catherine as well.

“She has that focus, ‘Let’s do what’s best for kids,’” Brook said. “She pushes us to think for ourselves and she’s always there for us if we need support.”

Chamber President Mike Jones said the scholarship program “will help make sure we never forget [Dr. Lennard’s] contributions to this community and, in a small way, continue the work he devoted his life to.”

To support the fund, call the chamber at 234-5944; visit www.RiverviewChamber.com. The chamber is in the CenterState Bank building at 10101 Bloomingdale Ave. in Riverview.