Michael W. Hoke Foundation for Excellence in Science Education aims to fundraise for science education scholarships

A local foundation is hosting its an inaugural gala to raise money for scholarships in honor of its namesake and local educator, the late Michael W. Hoke.

Hoke, a graduate of Lamar University, taught middle and high school science classes in West Orange-Cove CISD for more than 30 years and was named the first managing director of Shangri La Botanical Gardens in Orange.

After his death in 2016, his family established the Michael W. Hoke Foundation for Excellence in Science Education and endowed a small scholarship at Lamar University to provide support for students pursuing a career in science or environmental education.

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“The way scholarships work is the amount you donate to the university is the endowment and they use the interest basically to provide an annual scholarship,” said son and president of the foundation Robert Hoke. “So, you need a pretty large endowment to make a reasonably-sized scholarship.”

The family initially donated $20,000 and while Robert said that was a large chunk of money, it doesn’t provide for a tremendously large scholarship year after year.

To increase the endowment, Robert said he’s been working on hosting a fundraising gala with the ultimate goal to provide bigger or more scholarships to respective Lamar University students.

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The gala will be held at 5 p.m., July 23, at the Lamar State College Orange Shahan Events Center and will include speakers, dinner from local Old Orange Café and Catering and a silent auction.

Tickets are on sale through Monday on the foundation’s website at mwh-foundation.org.

“This has been a labor of love and a long time coming,” Robert said. “The foundation was started with the goal of increasing the endowment of the existing scholarship through fundraising both online and/or in person so that maybe in the future, we can have more than one scholarship that’s given annually with the idea of improving science education and assisting students who want to focus on science education and paying for their education.”

Robert said his father, who worked with the Stark Foundation in Orange, expressed a desire before he passed away to one day have his own foundation to put money toward science education.

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Robert said he had the unique experience of having his father as a teacher twice when he took his classes in eighth grade and while at Lamar State College Orange and saw how his father thrived as an educator.

“He was a special teacher — he thrived in that environment,” Robert said. “He thrived in inspiring students and getting them to become interested in (science) which for a lot of students is challenging. I was always inspired by his passion for that.”

Robert, who is now a lawyer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said he’s had a lot of teachers in his life, but he still remembers his father’s lessons.

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“I have children now, and I see them coming home from school and telling me, ‘Oh, we did this,’ and they just so happen to go to a magnet elementary here in Baton Rouge that is an Eco-STEM curriculum,” he said. “When we found out that was a possibility for our kids to go there, we were like, could there be a better place for the grandchildren of Michael Hoke to go to school?”

Robert said he believes it’s incredibly important to do everything that can be done to improve education.

“I’m not an educator — I don’t have that gift to go into a classroom of young students and do that,” he said. “But there are people out there that do have that gift and want to do that and we feel the least we can do is give them a little assistance in making that dream a reality.”

To learn more about the foundation and to donate, visit mwh-foundation.org/donate.

The Shahan Events Center is located at 209 Green Ave in Orange.

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