Faces of Philanthropy: Oscar and Libbie Rudnick Scholarship Fund
Sep 29, 2014
By Jeff Pickering
First. Best. Brightest. Distinguished. Horatio Alger Award. Gates Millennium Scholar. These are a few of the superlatives that are found in a Google search for the names of the 11 students selected to receive inaugural awards from the Oscar and Libbie Rudnick Scholarship Fund at Kern Community Foundation.
One might expect these accolades for a group of high school seniors whose average grade point average is 4.0. But surprisingly, most of these students are the first in their families to graduate from high school and attend college.
While financial need is one criterion that each student must demonstrate to qualify for the scholarship, triumph over adversity is the common thread that ties them together. This thread, woven with characteristics of perseverance, hard work and a determination to succeed in life, is what binds these students to the scholarship's namesakes.
Oscar Rudnick (1892--1959) immigrated to America at the beginning of the 20th century to escape Czarist Russia. Heading west from New York, he peddled housewares from a horse and cart, making his way to California where he met and married his wife Libbie (1892--1951). The couple settled in Bakersfield and raised 11 children. The Rudnicks founded, developed and managed a livestock and agribusiness industry of major importance to the economy of Kern County.
If the strength of the thread binding the 2014 Rudnick Scholars together is derived from Oscar and Libbie Rudnick, its vibrant color can be attributed to the woman whose estate gift established the fund.
While maintaining a lifelong business interest in agriculture, the couple's fifth child, Elynor Rudnick Falk (1923-1996), was a pioneer in the field of aviation. She founded the Bakersfield Airpark, operated agricultural spraying and oil exploration businesses and trained many of the first student pilots to join the Israeli Air Force.
In 2012, with help from her husband, Dr. David Falk, Kern Community Foundation received $500,000 from Elynor Rudnick Falk's estate to honor the memory of her parents in perpetuity. According to Falk, additional estate distributions of up to $4 million may be made to the fund.
The fund provides scholarships to U.S. citizens who are current or former residents of Kern County, and who demonstrate motivation, perseverance and a sincere desire to gain an education. One of the 2014 Rudnick Scholars is Angie Osorio, who recently graduated from Golden Valley High School with a 4.1 GPA. She is enrolled as a human biology major at UCLA.
"This scholarship is an unexpected blessing, and I am so grateful," Osorio said. "This will help me to get one step closer to my dream of becoming a pediatric reconstructive surgeon."
In a recent visit with Falk, he reflects on what his wife might think if she was alive to meet these students.
"Given their achievements and their future promise, I believe Elynor would be very proud of this tribute to her parents. Very proud," he said.
-- Jeff Pickering is president and CEO of Kern Community Foundation and of its subsidiary Kern Real Estate Foundation. To learn more about the foundation, visit kernfoundation.org or call 616-2617 .
This story originally appeared in Bakersfield Life Magazine.