The John Allegrina Nontraditional Student Memorial Scholarship is an endowed scholarship for Grand Valley State University juniors or seniors in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. This endowment was established to acknowledge that, for some students, an education is the key to bettering one’s life circumstances; but that life circumstances can also complicate the process of attaining an education.
A gift of education
John Allegrina was born June 21, 1948 in Detroit and graduated in 1967 from Henry Ford High School in Detroit. He was an accomplished trombonist, winning statewide
honors for his playing and serving as an active member of his high school marching band.
It was through those experiences that John exhibited his lifelong love of learning — a value that he instilled in his daughter, Heather, from a very young age. They would travel together, visiting New York, Canada and England. In those travels, Heather developed a cosmopolitan worldview that remains an integral part of her personality to this day.
John was so devoted to Heather’s education that he worked hard to pay for her undergraduate studies in philosophy at Grand Valley so she would not face a large student loan debt burden after she earned her degree. Heather’s education is a gift for which she is grateful, and which would be impossible to fully repay.
John did not merely recognize the value of education for others — he found himself facing a career change that caused him to go back to school. John was employed by Sherman Shoes in Metro Detroit for more than 30 years; but as the shoe industry changed over time, he began searching for a new line of work. He took classes at Schoolcraft College. But it was in 2005, after he relocated from the Detroit area to Elk Rapids to marry his wife Catherine that he discovered his love of the health care industry. He became a unit clerk/nursing assistant in the cardio-thoracic unit at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City and was studying to become a registered nurse at Northwestern Michigan College.
As Michigan faces difficult economic conditions and a transforming job climate, there are many adult workers who are facing similar mid-career changes in vocation. The Allegrina Scholarship is intended to help students in similar circumstances.
John passed away suddenly on May 31, 2009, and his loss is felt every day. However, rather than dwelling on that sorrow, Heather and her husband Brian decided to honor his memory with the establishment of an endowed scholarship so that his commitment to education can live on in perpetuity and help empower others to shape their lives, communities and professions.