Scholarship fund in memory of Northwestern student John Thumel raises nearly $100K


Zack Laurence/Daily Senior Staffer

Friends and family gather at Bat 17 Sunday night for a fundraiser for the John Thumel Memorial Scholarship Fund. More than 250 people came to the event to watch hockey and celebrate Thumel’s memory.

Paige Leskin, Reporter

Almost $100,000 in donations have been raised for a scholarship in memory of Northwestern student John Thumel since his death in July.

Donations have poured in from family, friends and the NU community for the past six months, Thumel’s father Mike Thumel said, with fundraising culminating in an event Sunday night at Bat 17. The event celebrated the student’s legacy and love of hockey, with a silent auction of sports memorabilia while the bar’s televisions showed the Chicago Blackhawks beating the St. Louis Blues.

The money raised is going toward the newly founded John Thumel Memorial Scholarship Fund, a scholarship set up by the Sigma Chi Foundation that will be awarded each year to a member of NU’s Sigma Chi chapter, of which Thumel was a member.

In July, Thumel died from injuries sustained in a south Texas car crash. Thumel, a rising fifth-year McCormick student from Libertyville, Illinois, was working as an engineering intern at the time of his death.

The scholarship’s board of directors — made up of three current members of Sigma Chi at NU, two former members and Mike Thumel — is receiving applications until Sunday for the scholarship. The award, which will amount in $3,000 in its first year, will be given to a Sigma Chi member who exhibits the three F’s that were important to John Thumel: family, friends and faith, Mike Thumel said. The board will spend the month of February interviewing the approximately 20 applicants, and name the winner in the spring, he said.

And with the money raised Sunday night, the Sigma Chi Foundation will be able to raise the scholarship to $4,000 a year for the next 25 to 30 years, Thumel said. Although the initial fundraising goal started at $25,000, the continual influx of donations has allowed that goal to be quadrupled, he said.

“I was overwhelmed by just everyone that was there, the love that was there, the feeling of the impact that John had on people’s lives,” Thumel said. “It was fun, it was spontaneous. … John would’ve approved.”

THUMEL_Photo-by-Zack-Laurence_webZack Laurence/Daily Senior Staffer

Amidst the sharing of memories of the McCormick student, a handful of NU faculty came to Bat 17 to present John Thumel’s family with a certificate of achievement from the University.

When setting up the event, the organizing group was unsure if the event would draw a lot of people, said Sigma Chi President Walker McKinney. But the Communication junior said he was “floored” when more than 250 people showed up to share stories of John Thumel — not only current NU undergraduate students, but also alumni of NU’s Sigma Chi chapter and his high school friends.

“People were driving in and flying in. It was just everybody all in one place,” McKinney said. “It was unreal.”

Thumel’s impact will remain at Bat 17 as well. On the wall of the bar now hangs a plaque dedicated to Thumel, as well as a framed Blackhawks jersey — No. 56 to commemorate Thumel’s birthday on May 6. The jersey is signed by the members of the current Blackhawks team, made possible after Communication senior Dan Rufolo, a close friend of Thumel’s, reached out to the hockey team.

Bat 17 owner Jim Pomerantz said he was honored to host the fundraiser in memory of Thumel, as well as to have a permanent installment dedicated to Thumel in his bar.

“It was a no-brainer to host the function,” he said. “We miss John.”

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