George and Helen Pratte Memorial Scholarship Endowment
JONESBORO – With a goal of increasing the educational achievement of women in the Delta, the family of two longtime residents of the region has established a scholarship at Arkansas State University for females majoring in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
The George and Helen Pratte Memorial Scholarship was recently endowed by several of their children to honor their memory and love of learning. Recipients will be selected by the College of Sciences and Mathematics Scholarship Committee.
"This scholarship has been created to enable other students in the Delta to go on to earn their degrees and give back to the region," explained Dr. John Pratte, dean of the College of Sciences and Mathematics and one of the couple's children. "It is structured so preference will be given to needy female students, from the region currently defined by the Delta Regional Authority, who are seeking to major in under-represented STEM fields."
Awardees of the Pratte Memorial Scholarship will need to express how they will use their degrees to give back to the region to help overcome the educational, economic and health issues that have plagued it for many years.
"Arkansas State University is grateful to the Pratte family, especially Dr. John Pratte, for seeing a need not only on our campus but in the Delta as well," said Kasey Eakins, director of development. "In order for our community to grow and prosper, it is essential that quality students have the opportunity to pursue a degree in higher education that will enable them to impact the region upon graduation. The establishment of the George and Helen Pratte Memorial Scholarship Endowment will do just that."
The descendants of immigrants who moved to the Delta as far back as 1765, George and Helen Pratte were both born in Ste. Genevieve County in Missouri in the 1920s. After George left the U.S. Navy in 1946, the two met and later married while working for Rice Stix in St. Louis.
Although neither had a college degree at the time (Helen would later go back to college to earn a master's degree after most of the children had left home), they instilled in their nine children a love of learning and an expectation of a college education. Like many parents, they made numerous sacrifices to make this a reality, such as moving the family to a small college town so their children could afford to attend the university less expensively.
“The first thing you saw when you entered the house was a wall-to-wall bookshelf that held hundreds of books,” John Pratte recalled. “Most nights, you would find Mom either working a crossword puzzle or reading a book, paper or magazine. She definitely modeled a love of learning for us.”
Helen was a substitute teacher at her kids’ school; after earning her degree, she became assistant principal. This emphasis on higher education worked, as eight of the children went on to attend college and three of those later went into the teaching profession.
"Book learning" was not the only type they instilled in their children. All, no matter what age or gender, were expected to take an active, hands-on role in learning practical skills.
“Dad really emphasized hands-on learning and how things worked. This applied to girls and boys alike,” stated John Pratte. "One of my older sisters is still a far better welder than I am, although I have just about caught up to her in woodworking and gardening after a half century."
This belief that gender should not be an impediment to achievement was also instilled by Helen, who became the first female mayoral candidate in the history of their small Delta town in the mid-1970s, a rare occurrence to this day.
Helen passed away in August, and George died in 1992. However, due to their children's generosity, their legacy will live on through the George and Helen Pratte Memorial Scholarship.
To learn more about this and other scholarships, one may visit A-State's Financial Aid and Scholarships website, http://www.AState.edu/finaid/.
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