Stephen Chandler Ericson Foundation Aims to Pay it Forward

A Chester County family started a scholarship in honor of a loved one.

After tragically losing their son, Stephen Ericson, in 1984, Laura Chandler Ericson and Joseph H. Ericson, Jr. established a scholarship in his name. For more than 30 years, they’ve granted a scholarship to a recent high school graduate in the hopes of emphasizing the importance of education. This year’s recipient is Henderson High School graduate Christopher Sanchez, who will be attending Bloomsburg University in the fall, where he plans to study exercise science.

The first scholarship, in the amount of $250, was granted in May 1985 with the goal of rewarding a graduating high school student. “As we prepared for Stephen’s funeral, we decided that, in lieu of flowers, we would create a scholarship that would help high school seniors achieve their college or trade school dreams,” says Laura Chandler Ericson.

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The Ericsons’ belief that “one life makes a difference” has helped them continue their dedication to the fund and has fueled their passion of helping students.

“Stephen was an old soul. He was so loving and mature for his years,” says Cynthia Ericson, Stephen’s older sister. She has been involved with the foundation for over 15 years. When her father became ill, around 2000, Cynthia began further managing the scholarship. In December 2010, she and her husband officially established the Stephen Chandler Ericson Foundation.

Despite her years of dedication, Cynthia still attributes the foundation’s success to her parents. Though her father passed away in 2014, her mother still remains involved. “We are stewards of our parents,” Cynthia says. “[My mother] is the heartbeat behind everything.”

The foundation is now a charitable fund within the Chester County Community Foundation, leaving Cynthia and Laura to do what they love most: encouraging their community and spreading charitable acts in Stephen’s name.

Christopher Sanchez, this year’s  recipient of the Stephen Chandler Ericson Foundation Scholarship. 

Joseph H. Ericson, Jr. and Laura Chandler Ericson

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Stephen Ericson

Today, they seek scholars similar to Stephen, who was musically and athletically inclined, playing the saxophone, golf, baseball, swimming and soccer. They ask school principals and teachers to nominate students whose virtues reflect Stephen’s and those of the foundation. They also look for students who might qualify for financial-based assistance.

Prior to 2012, only students at West Chester Christian School, where both Stephen and Cynthia attended school, were eligible. Since then, they’ve made the scholarship available to students of Henderson High School as well.

In recent years, the foundation has gained attention from larger corporations, which has helped expand the endowment. This year, the Ericson Foundation achieved its highest charitable achievement, awarding a $6,000 scholarship.

This year’s recipient, Christopher Sanchez, expressed his gratitude upon receiving the scholarship. He said that he has tried to live up to the “one life makes a difference” motto by “leaving a lasting impression” on the people he has met and the places he has been, the way Stephen did. 

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