Mason Branstetter: Judy Schmidt lifetime achievement award

January 2017 Posted in Community
Mason Branstetter

Mason Branstetter

By Steve Ritchie

In 1996, the Silverton High School Alumni Association decided to award its first scholarship. Association founder and longtime secretary Mason Branstetter, SHS ‘63, recalled it was a quite humble beginning.

“Given the fact that we only had $900, we thought that we could only give out $50,” Branstetter said.  “We established a policy of putting our emphasis on growing the principal and giving out only earnings as scholarships. I was embarrassed with the $50 amount, so I added a matching donation so that our first scholarship in 1996 was $100.”

More than 20 years later, it is a different story. In 2016, the SHSAA awarded more than $65,000 in scholarships.
“Since 1996, we have awarded $734,300 to 957 SHS alumni while growing our investment principal from $100 to $1,050,000,” Branstetter said.

The growth and impact of the alumni association’s scholarship program over the past two decades is amazing. It also makes Mason Branstetter a more than worthy recipient of the Judy Schmidt Lifetime Achievement Award from the Silverton Chamber of Commerce.
Among those nominating Branstetter for the award was David McColly, who wrote, “Without Mason, I don’t think this (scholarship) program would exist.”

Noting the contributions of time, money, materials, office space and office staff help that Branstetter provides through Silverton Realty, Jeanette and Stanley Olafson concurred that, “None of this would be possible without Mason’s help.”

The December 2013 issue of the Silverton Alumni News featured an article on the SHSAA reaching its “Million Dollar Goal,” and noted, “Collectively, we can now boast that we have one of the strongest high school alumni associations in the state …”
Branstetter, who seems reluctant to claim much credit for the group’s success, says, “The SHSAA has been tremendously successful because of a team of dedicated SHS alumni.”

That team was not in place in 1993 when the 30th reunion of the SHS Class of 1963 was held. Reunion organizers, including Branstetter, had $900 left over after expenses and wanted to use it for the benefit of the high school, but realized the funds would not go far. They decided to put the money aside for scholarships. Branstetter admitted progress was slow at first because “there were only three members of the Alumni Association – me, myself, and I.

“Around 1996 the Silverton ‘rumor mill’ went to work, some fellow SHS Alumni approached me, and we really started getting something accomplished to establish and grow the SHSAA.  This proves that it takes a team to get things done. As we gained more members of the board of trustees, they volunteered and assumed individually and collectively the responsibilities for the many necessary functions and positions to make a successful organization. The SHSAA organization started its phenomenal growth.”

As someone with a long and distinguished military career, first in the Oregon National Guard and then the U.S. Army, Branstetter was well-acquainted with building a team, as well as planning, organizing and implementing the plan. He found the SHSAA helped him continue his deep commitment to service in civilian life. “(One thing) most military retirees talk about is living in an environment that lacks a sense of brotherhood and duty,” he said.  “The SHSAA has helped fulfill that need.”

Mason has been married to Marcia Brooks Branstetter, a fourth-generation native Oregonian, for 49 years. The couple, who have four children and 12 grandchildren, returned to Silverton in 1989 after Mason completed 26 years of military service, which involved 16 moves in 22 years. Branstetter said their  moves were good preparation for the couple eventually purchasing Silverton Realty.   

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