Ferris State University alumnus, United States Navy veteran and community advocate Otto Kamptner, who passed away Jan. 2, 2014 at the age of 84, was passionate about safety and education. His wife of 36 years, Elaine, has created a scholarship endowment in his name that embodies the values he lived.
Otto was an avid volunteer in the Big Rapids community. He helped start the Big Rapids Little League program and coached young baseball players for 20 years. He also served on the Big Rapids Public Schools Board of Education from 1968 to 1976, joined the Mecosta County Sheriff’s Posse from 1968 to 1994 and was a member of the Big Rapids Jaycees and VFW Post No. 4102.
His spirit of volunteerism and dedication to education will have a lasting impact on Ferris students through the Otto Kamptner Memorial Scholarship Endowment, which provides financial assistance to Criminal Justice majors.
“When he was in college, he worked seven part-time jobs, cared for his family, transported a disabled friend to classes and carried a full class load,” Elaine said. “He very much appreciated the GI Bill. There was no scholarship assistance then, so it was a struggle. When he was younger, he wanted to be an attorney but couldn’t afford the additional cost of law school. He always had a passion for the law.”
That’s why she chose to honor him through a scholarship endowment that will help Ferris students seeking a career in law enforcement better afford a college education.
“He would be pleased that we are adding Ferris women and men to ‘the good guys’ – he was one of the good guys,” said Elaine, who often assisted Otto at the various safety classes he taught, including boater, hunter, marine, ORV and snowmobile. “He was passionate about safety and teaching young people. He loved to teach others.”
His volunteer safety instruction through the Mecosta County Sheriff’s Department continued until December.
After serving in the United States Navy from 1946 to 1948, Otto attended Ferris Institute until he was called back into service for three years during the Korean War. He was honorably discharged and returned to finish his education at Ferris. Following graduation, he began working at Hanchett Manufacturing in Big Rapids, where he enjoyed a successful 39-year career, retiring in 1994 as general manager.
Elaine also is a Ferris alumnus along with their son, Joshua, and several other family members; a great-grandson is a current Ferris student. The couple have given to Ferris over the years and are members of the Old Main and Abigail Smith Timme donor societies.
“We believe strongly in education,” Elaine said of why giving to their alma mater was important to the Kamptners. “Ferris State University has done so very much for me.”
Elaine, who joined Ferris in 1985, serves the university as executive assistant to President David Eisler. She also chairs the university’s Pride Committee.
Creating the scholarship endowment to benefit students is a way for her to honor her husband, Elaine said, noting such a memorial is available to people who may not think it is a viable option.
“You don’t have to have a lot of money to honor the memory of someone you love,” said Elaine, who expressed appreciation for the many donations made to the scholarship endowment by individuals and businesses.
“This extraordinary gift will greatly expand scholarship opportunities for students in the Criminal Justice program,” said Carla Miller, executive director of the Ferris Foundation. “Memorializing Otto with this gift addresses a fundamental educational need for students studying criminal justice, and we are truly grateful.”
The Otto Kamptner Memorial Scholarship will be awarded annually to a full-time undergraduate student chosen by Ferris’ Department of Criminal Justice scholarship committee in conjunction with the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid.
“While I did not personally know Otto, I know that he served the criminal justice profession proudly and with honor,” said Steven Reifert, interim dean of the College of Education and Human Services. “It is so fitting that Elaine decided to continue to support both the profession he so proudly served and the university that she serves so endearingly by providing means for a student to continue their studies at Ferris. This scholarship helps by allowing students to continue to study at Ferris and to work toward their dreams of serving the criminal justice profession, as Otto did.”
For more information about the Kamptner scholarship or to make a contribution, contact The Ferris Foundation at (231) 591-2365 or [email protected].