The Magazine of the University of Minnesota Duluth

Volume 14 • Number 1 • Winter 1998


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The Isaac and Rose Gershgol Scholarship is a story about
fish and apples, paint brushes, props and violins.

Rose and Isaac Gershgol

It's a story about two courageous, determined Russian immigrants, their generous, visionary sons and 105 hard working UMD students. It's the story about the Isaac and Rose Gershgol Scholarship Fund.

The Isaac and Rose Gershgol Scholarship Fund is an endowed scholarship with an annual distribution awarded to outstanding undergraduate fine arts students and performers who have financial need. The scholarship was established in 1976 by Duluth grocer businessmen Joseph and David Gershgol in memory of their parents Isaac and Rose. While the fund itself and its first awards began in 1976 and 1977, the story begins much earlier.

Isaac and Rose Gershgol came to Duluth in 1906 with their young son Joseph. Isaac sold fish from a basket under his arm, walking door to door to make a living. One day Isaac purchased a box-car of apples to venture on a fruit market. The market was to be a surprise for his sons. They sold the apples from a tent on West First Street, making enough profit to purchase more and then diversify to other items. Isaac and Rose parlayed this one canvas-sided store into five major super markets and three wholesale grocery firms.

Joseph and David, their two sons, began their grocer careers early in their lives, leaving school to work in the business. When their parents died, Isaac in 1952 and Rose in 1955, the Gershgol brothers assumed leadership of the business and in 1968, sold their chain to Gamble Skogmo, Inc. Both men returned to school in their 50s to complete their unfinished educations.

Because Isaac and Rose had modeled generous philanthropy and because they had a hard won appreciation of education, Joseph and David, along with their wives Goldie and Ruth, decided to establish an endowed scholarship. Their hope was that their scholarship would aid students whose education might otherwise be left unfinished.

In September 1976 they established a scholarship endowment which, like their parent's apples, has multiplied 10-fold into a fund which now supports six $900 annual scholarships. "This scholarship gives me more pleasure than anything I've ever done," states Joseph Gershgol. These awards represent a significant offset to the $1,600 it costs for the average quarter with tuition, fees and books. Andrea Bargabos, a senior vocal performance major said, "This scholarship means a lot. It's an honor but it also means I can work less and study and practice more."

Behind these scholarships are 105 talented current and former students, most of whom have gone on to degree-related careers. "UMD's School of Fine Arts has an outstanding record of graduating exceptional and committed artists who make an active and significant contribution to their respective communities. The Gershgol Scholarship has played a major part in these accomplishments," said Gloria Brush, acting SFA dean.

Three former Gershgol theatre scholars are working actors in New York, one of whom, Brett Rickaby ('87), is a member of the current national Carousel tour; others are directors and provide technical support in various venues. For instance, Gary Baird ('79) is on staff at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis and Roger Anderson ('82) is prop master for the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre. Others are teachers and some have taken their talents into related arenas. Keith DeFreese ('82) is working in architectural lighting design.

Some former Gershgol art scholars hold positions as graphic designers, others have their own studios and have had their work exhibited in galleries as well as their own solo exhibitions. Kelly McFaul-Solem ('93) is promoting the interests of women artists as co-founder of the Northern Women's Art Collective.

The former Gershgol music scholars are working in the field as composers, singers, musicians, band leaders, teachers. Toshifumi Hinata ('80), one of the early Gershgol awardees, has over 10 well-selling CDs to his credit as well as a number of television sound tracks including one for Fuji TV.

Randy K. Lee ('82) is an example of a Gershgol scholar who has returned to the Gershgol's home community the investment they made in him. Randy is the band and general music teacher at Hermantown Middle School. In 1991, he was named the Young Band Director of the Year by the American School Band Directors Association. He is also founder and artistic director of the Big Time Jazz Orchestra, a non-profit organization founded to advance jazz and jazz-related projects, and the Randy Lee Jazz Orchestra, a commercial big band.

Chad Albers, senior art student, said, "I was surprised when I received the scholarship and I have noticed a change. It told me I could do this and I see myself working a lot harder."

Isaac and Rose would be proud.            

Isaac, David, and Joseph Gershgol (l-r) at the Gershgol fruit stand.
(Photos provided by Dorothy Gurovitsch, sister of Joseph and David Gershgol)

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