January 2010

2009 Founders' Scholarship Winners Reflect Heart of the Movement
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Hard work. Dedication. A love for your trade. These are just some of the traits that members display on the jobsite every day. Now three exceptional brothers are taking those qualities into the classroom as recipients of the 2009 Founders' Scholarship.

The scholarship was established in 1966 to help IBEW members obtain higher education degrees to bolster their contributions to the trade and the union. For former Grand Forks, N.D., Local 1426 Business Manager Seth Thompson, receiving the honor is both "gratifying and humbling."

"Start-ing out as an electrician and seeing the struggle employees go through made me interested in pursuing a career as a labor attorney," said Thompson. In December, he finished his first semester at Hamline University Law School in St. Paul, Minn., where he is honing his knowledge of alternative dispute resolution and labor law.

The 29-year-old cut his teeth handling negotiations and winning tough arbitrations for his local—including a case involving a 30-year Local 1426 member who was unjustly terminated. "We got him reinstated and he received all of his back pay," Thompson said. "Moments like that make you feel good to be in the movement." Thompson looks forward to a dynamic career defending the rights of working men and women.

For fellow recipient Matthew Wilkinson, the scholarship will help fund the Madison, Wis., Local 159 member's degree in career and technical education and training at the University of Wisconsin-Stout so he can teach the next generation of apprentices. A full-time journeyman wireman foreman at Westphal & Co., Wilkinson brings his 11 years of electrical expertise to classes at Madison Area Technical College, where he serves as a part-time instructor.

"I see this as an opportunity to help me give back and educate young people while pushing the trade forward," Wilkinson said. At 29, he is in his fourth year of service as the local's education committee chairman, having coordinated apprenticeship courses while developing instructional curricula. Wilkinson offered gratitude to Local 159 apprentice instructor Matt Parks, who guided him through his fifth year in the apprenticeship and helped inspire his love of teaching.

Hamilton, Ohio, Local 648 President Matthew Von Stein is putting his scholarship money toward a degree in business management from Cincinnati's Xavier University. With experience as chairman of the Butler County Democratic Party, a seat on the county's Board of Elections and as president of the local's COPE committee, the third-generation IBEW member has his eyes on the city council in the coming years.

"Sometimes, the way to advance our cause is not with our tools, but with pen and paper," Von Stein said. "Getting my degree will help me further the purpose of the union through politics."

As scholarship winners, Thompson, Wilkinson and Von Stein have each earned $200 per semester hour toward their degrees with a maximum amount of $24,000, not to exceed an eight-year period.

Seth Thompson

Matthew Wilkinson

Matthew Von Stein