by Blake Stewart
Trevecca Nazarene University offers more than 100 endowed scholarships, and each one tells its own unique story.
The story behind the University’s Kyle Funke Memorial Scholarship Endowment is founded on the principles of faith, hope and determination.
As a teenager, Kyle had been diagnosed with a dormant brain tumor. But that didn’t stop Kyle from pursuing a college education.
“He was convinced that Trevecca was the only school for him,” said Tina Funke, Kyle’s mother. “We wanted him to look at other schools, but his heart was at Trevecca.”
In 2006, the dormant tumor in Kyle’s brain began to grow, and he started a grueling three-year journey of chemo, radiation and surgeries.
After surgeries and seven weeks of speech and physical therapy, Kyle enrolled as a freshman to begin his Trevecca experience.
“At first, I had reservations about Trevecca, but the relationships he created on campus made the difference,” Tina recalls.
Despite going through hardships, Kyle always managed to keep a positive attitude. Amidst surgeries, chemo and radiation, Tina’s memories of her son’s experience at Trevecca were of Kyle being happy and involved with every activity he could join in.
To Kyle and his parents, Trevecca was more than just a university; it was a formative place while Kyle battled cancer.“It was such a joy to see him so happy and to see him want to go back after surgery and chemo,” she says. “For us, it’s indescribable what that meant to see him so happy and cared for with an incredible group of friends who embraced him throughout his journey.”
“Had he not been at Trevecca, I don’t know that his experience would have been as encouraging,” said Pete Funke, Kyle’s dad.
Kyle passed away while a student at Trevecca on the morning of January 24, 2009, after a 7-year battle with a brain tumor and cancer.
After his passing, Kyle’s parents decided to start the Kyle Funke Memorial Scholarship, an endowment providing scholarship funds to students wishing to attend Trevecca while they or a family member is struggling with life-threatening illnesses.
“The primary focus on creating the fund was to acknowledge the blessing our son had by going to Trevecca and extending that to others,” Pete and Tina say.
The Funkes say they value of the Christian education Trevecca provided their son and see the scholarship as a way to share that same opportunity with others.
“For me, it was a matter of honoring Kyle’s life,” Pete says.. “The idea that his legacy would move on through serving others and getting that Christian education, I think it serves a higher purpose.”
The Funkes hope that recipients of the scholarship will take full advantage of the experiences Trevecca has to offer.
“If Kyle had one thing to say, it would be to have a blast,” Pete says. “It was amazing that Kyle always worked hard and served others, but he always had a great time, and I think that’s what the biggest draw was for him at the end.”
Sophomore religion major Emma Duke is the most recent recipient and the first person in her family to attend college.Bryce Cranford was the first recipient of the scholarship in 2012. Since then, five students have benefitted from the scholarship.
Duke’s mother is battling leukemia and the cost of medical bills made it difficult to support Emma’s calling to ministry. Duke says this burden weighed heavy on her mother.
“Even though this was not her fault, I knew she felt responsible for the possibility of me not being able to further my education,” Duke says. “I am beyond thankful for Trevecca and this scholarship for making my calling possible to attain.”