With salaries being what they were at the time, faculty were more than colleagues, they were friends and neighbors. They had their own co-op, of sorts, one fixing another’s plumbing in return for some help with roof repair. The Krafts were thrifty with what they had. “Clarence would always ride his bicycle to campus and chain it to a tree,” Millie says. “He rode even in the snow. He remembered how his mother struggled to make ends meet, and he was always frugal, just an old shoe.”
Yet the Krafts always found a little sum here and there to give to their church and to various funds at Willamette, including many scholarships named in honor of fellow faculty members.
While “some students thought Clarence was unusual” for riding his bicycle in the snow, one student — Dick Carney ’64 — believes Professor Kraft was responsible for making sure he graduated. A physical education major, Carney played on the 1960 football team inducted into the Willamette Hall of Fame, though he says he was no superstar. “I just played on a good team my freshman year,” he says, admitting, “I focused on playing more than on school.”
Carney remembers the many hours Professor Kraft spent working with him, helping him get a passing grade so he could meet the two-year foreign language requirement needed to graduate. While Carney always intended to be a football coach, he was “recruited into the insurance business instead.” Today he is president of CFP, Inc., a Salem company that creates benefits packages for major employers. “I was a local kid fortunate enough to get financial aid,” Carney recalls. “If it weren’t for that and Clarence Kraft, I’d be digging ditches.”
Professor Kraft died in 2004, after what Millie calls many “years of grace” following two heart attacks in 1969 and subsequent bypass surgery. “He was as plain as your shoe,” Carney says fondly. “He never went out of his way to gain attention. He just did his job and did it well. I wanted to make sure he was recognized and remembered.”
Carney and his wife, Linda, created the Professor Clarence Kraft and Millie Kraft Scholarship, to be awarded to an undergraduate Spanish major who’s involved in study abroad. “It was Millie and the kids who had the idea to make it for language and study abroad,” Carney says.
Throughout his life, Clarence Kraft loved languages, as did his two brothers. As a junior at Oregon State College (now OSU), he went on foreign exchange to Chile. “Well, it was the best thing that ever happened to him,” Millie says. “He was always so inquisitive. Till the day he died, he loved to take a city bus to the end of the line, wanting to see how others lived.”
Senior Mayra Ledesma, from Hood River, Ore., holds the scholarship this year. A double major in Spanish and economics, Ledesma traveled to Seville, Spain, last year and now contemplates a career in politics or immigration law. Receiving a scholarship, she says, “will allow me to take a job not based on income, but on what I can accomplish. The less debt students have when we graduate, the faster we can make a difference.”
Just as Kraft made all the difference for Carney, Carney makes a difference for today’s students — not only with this scholarship, but with regular contributions to athletics and other campus initiatives, including start-up and annual funding for the holiday Star Trees lighting. “I’m thankful to have the ability to do that,” Carney says. “I got a lot of help from Clarence, and that made the difference in me being able to give today.”