Palmer Scholars and the family of Donald Rupp recently established a scholarship in his honor. The following is a piece about Donald’s life, written by one who knew him best, his daughter and Palmer Scholars Director of Postsecondary Pathways Christina Rupp. To support the Don Rupp Craft Scholarship, click here.
Donald “Don” Rupp came into this world and left it as a man with a gracious and caring heart, who would do anything to help others. Anyone who talked with Don did not remain a stranger for long. He loved listening to other life stories and could hold conversations that were engaging for hours. Most importantly, Don loved to listen and learn from every person he met.
In his early years, Don began working on farms in Adams County, Pennsylvania at age 5, and driving tractors by age 6. His father died when he was a young teenager, leaving his mother and Don to live upstairs in the local grain silo office. He attended Bermudian Springs High School (class of 1966) in Huntington Township, Pennsylvania. Don enlisted in the Air Force before graduation and is a Veteran of the Vietnam Conflict. After his tour overseas, he was stationed at McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, Washington, and decided to make the area his home.
Don was a conventional machinist and vested IAM union member for 49 years. He loved his craft and spent countless hours teaching his only child the world of machining, car/motorcycle maintenance, and construction. Soon his daughter brought all the other kids in the neighborhood over to learn – which they continued to do through their high school years and beyond. He loved to teach and left countless lessons behind for those who showed interest in the trades.
Coming from a low-income background, Don emphasized to the kids in the neighborhood that the trades – through apprenticeship, work, or schooling - was a way to own your home, lift up your family, and break the cycle of poverty. That message had a huge impact on one child in particular, his daughter Christina, who is the program and curriculum designer of Palmer Scholars’ Palmer Pathways Initiative. She carries his passion and love for the crafts through to the next generation, along with the message of Palmer Scholars: a four-year degree is not the only road to success in this world – each one of us must know our unique passions, interests, and strengths to find joy in our work and achievements.
Don had an inimitable enthusiasm for life, conversations, learning, meeting new people, and honing his craft as a machinist. From drawings on napkins for his daughter to explain the part he had tooled that day, to helping the neighborhood kids through math, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus, Don loved education in any form. That joy for knowledge is akin to those of the Palmer Pathways Initiative and Palmer Scholars. In his honor, his wife Vicky and daughter Christina have collaborated with Jonathan Jackson, Palmer Scholars Executive Director, to create the Don Rupp Craft Scholarship. The Scholarship will be awarded annually to Scholars in both the Legacy and Pathways programs who pursue technical college education or apprenticeship in the trades. Join us in celebrating Don’s legacy by contributing to the next generation of non-traditional professionals!