Teachers seek endowment for memorial scholarship

By Tammy Keith Originally Published December 23, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated December 21, 2012 at 2:04 p.m.
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Russellville teachers are seeking $25,000 to endow a scholarship in memory of Savannah Hintze, a Russellville High School student who was killed in a car wreck three weeks before graduating in 2011.

— Savannah Hintze, who was killed in a car wreck three weeks before graduating from Russellville High School in 2011, was described as “remarkable” and “positive” by teachers and friends.

They haven’t forgotten her and want her memory to live on through the Savannah Kaitlyn Hintze Memorial Scholarship to Arkansas Tech University.

“She was really a fun, kind, loving person,” said Paul Gray, a social studies teacher at Russellville High School.

The goal is $25,000 to endow a scholarship through the ATU Foundation, and Savannah’s former teachers are reaching out to the community to donate.

Fundraising began in 2011, and to date, $7,000 has been raised, almost exclusively by students, who have done everything from holding pancake breakfasts to painting a bus. A couple of small scholarships have been given, but the four teachers who make up the fundraising team have sent a letter to business owners asking for support for the endowment.

“She was a great kid all the way around,” Gray said.

Her father died when she was 3, and her mother, Ingrid Hintze, is a custodian at the school in the social studies department.

“You want to memorialize a special girl, but it’s a family thing because her mother is an employee here,” Gray said.

“You’re weeping for a student, but it’s also a double whammy.”

Savannah turned 18 on April 1, 2011, and was killed April 25. She was driving home from school in rainy weather, and her younger brother, now 8, was a passenger. The car hydroplaned and hit a tree.

Gray said he was grounded at the airport in Chicago because of storms on his return home from China when he got the devastating news.

The community rallied to pay for the funeral and help in many other ways, he said.

Gray said he brought up the idea of a scholarship when he was at the funeral home with Savannah’s mother and grandmother.

“Both her mother and grandmother thought it would be a way for Savannah to sort of live on,” he said.

Hintze said education was “extremely important” to Savannah, and she planned to become a dental assistant.

“I feel like this [scholarship] — since she can’t have this dream — maybe others will have that opportunity because of having to lose her,” Hintze said. “It would be, in a sense, her helping others forever.”

Hintze said Savannah could have died several times before. She said Savannah was a twin, and Hintze miscarried Savannah’s sibling at three months of pregnancy, then almost lost Savannah and had to be put on bed rest.

The family survived two vehicle accidents, Hintze said, one when Savannah was 6 and “a horrible car accident” in Mississippi when Savannah was 14 months old and the car rolled down an embankment.

“Several times, God could have taken her,” Hintze said. “It could have been all my children on those incidents. Every time, God spared us, and things were fine.”

Hintze has 26-year-old twin sons, the 8-year-old son and two grown stepchildren.

She said Savannah was a joy to raise.

“She was one of those children you could just — she never did anything bad — she was always good, always happy and smiling,” Hintze said. “She was very giving, an extremely responsible child.”

Hintze said her daughter put others before herself.

“For instance, I never had a lot of money. When my husband was alive, we had a good life, but after that, I struggled,” she said.

“I wanted to buy her a class ring and set up photos for her graduation. She said, ‘Mom, really, I don’t need any of that. You need money for other things.’”

Hintze said Savannah didn’t ask for new clothes and had her own sense of style.

“I called her my little hippie gypsy,” Hintze said.

The family asked everyone to wear bright tie-dyed clothing, which Savannah loved, to the funeral.

“She was a very colorful, outgoing person,” Cooper said.

Gray said she was one of those students who truly was “remarkable.”

“She was very positive and just very unassuming,” Gray said.

He said an example is when Savannah’s grandmother in Utah helped pay for her to attend an educational trip to Italy. Gray said he and his wife bought luggage for Savannah because they knew she was from modest means.

“The day after we got back, she came to my house with the luggage. She said, ‘I’m bringing your luggage back.’ I said, ‘Sweetheart, that’s for you.’”

He said Savannah was the first to help someone else in need. She had an after-school job and gave spending money she had saved for the trip to one of her older brothers who needed it, Gray said.

When her grandmother offered to use money she was saving for Savannah’s college to fund the trip, Gray said Savannah maturely said, “No, it’s a nine-day trip to Europe. College is for life.”

Hintze said it was a trip of a lifetime for her daughter.

“She told me that was the best thing in her whole life, and she loved every minute of it,” Hintze said.

Gray said it only took a few days having Savannah in class to realize there was something special and “endearing” about her.

“I know it sounds cliché because people always say this when someone dies, but she really did like everybody,” Gray said. “She did not see race; she did not see religion. … Savannah was cool with everyone.”

She was a member of the P.E.A.C.E. club at school, which promotes “open ideas and peaceful relations for all walks of life,” Gray said.

He and teachers Neal Plummer and Brandon Cooper sponsor the club.

“Savannah was sort of the figurehead for that group, and she really exuded those qualities of helping out anybody and everybody and always having a cheerful attitude,” Cooper said.

Plummer said he knew Savannah was special from the time she was in elementary school.

He drove the bus she rode, and he said he saw how she took care of her younger brother when her mother had to work odd shifts.

“She had a ton of character from very early on,” Plummer said.

Malloree Murdock, 19, a sophomore at Arkansas Tech, said she and Savannah had been friends since seventh grade.

Some of Murdock’s favorite memories are of riding the bus when the girls were younger, and their homes were the last two stops in the afternoons.

“We would be on the bus for hours singing songs and stuff like that,” Murdock said.

“We were always automatically joking and laughing. We liked to be silly. She was smart — it wasn’t like she was ditzy — but we both knew how to have fun and enjoy our youth.”

Cooper said it’s getting to the point where a lot of the students coming through high school didn’t know Savannah.

“The scholarship is hopefully there to preserve her legacy a little bit,” he said.

Plummer said he wants the community to know that “not only are we honoring this amazing human; we’re honoring similar students who have the same mindset, the same attitude — choosing to make a positive difference.”

Hintze said it is still hard to cope with Savannah’s death.

“It’s not easy. I think what keeps me going is my faith in God and the fact that I know that she had a very full, beautiful life when she was here,” Hintze said.

She said reaching the $25,000 endowment goal is “all I think about now.”

“I think about her and her being gone, and I think about how badly I want this, and if this could finally happen, I could let go of this and find a new thing to strive for,” Hintze said.

Students apply to receive a scholarship, and a committee at the school reviews the applications.

“We want it to be an RHS grad, which Savannah would have been, and also, it will stay here in the community for a student who goes to Arkansas Tech,” Gray said. “It’s very much about our community as well.”

Donations to the scholarship fund can be mailed to the ATU Foundation, 8820 Tech Lane, Russellville, AR 72801. Checks need to be made to the ATU Foundation, with “Savannah Hintze Scholarship” in the memo line.

Donations may be made online at www.atu.edu/givetotech. Click on “make a gift” at the lower center of the page; enter personal information; under the section “My Gift” enter the amount for Specific Scholarship and put “Savannah Hintze” for the scholarship name. Click on next to bring up the screen for credit-card information.

For more information, call Arkansas Tech at (479) 964-0895 or (479) 968-0400, or Russellville High School at (479) 968-3151.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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