The Richmond Register

Local News

February 27, 2013

Berea Arena Theater hosts benefit concert in honor of migrant advocate

Gil Rosenberg Scholarship

MADISON COUNTY — Gil Rosenberg’s sister Lou liked how, instead of providing a Social Security number, students have to prove they are an undocumented immigrant to receive the $1,000 scholarship awarded in her brother’s memory.

“It was her idea to go this route,” said Rosenberg’s wife, June Widman.

The scholarship honors two things important to Rosenberg: “Supporting and welcoming the immigrant community and bettering yourself through education.”

At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, the Berea Arena Theater will host the Gil Rosenberg Scholarship Benefit Concert to raise money for the yearly award.

The show will feature “Four Shillings Short,” a husband and wife duo who play “around 40 different instruments — some you don’t see anymore,”  Widman said.

The scholarships are awarded through the Migrant Network Coalition (MNC) of Lexington, which Rosenberg helped found in the early 1990s when the migrant community began to grow in this region, she said. The coalition is a human service organization that provides information to assist migrants in transition.

Rosenberg was “big on community in a quiet way,” said Eddie Kennedy of the Berea Arena Theater. “He did a lot and was devoted to so many causes.”

Several may know him as the coach of the girls’ soccer team at Berea Community School, where his children, Jessy and Greg, attended.

He also was an umpire for many years for local youth and church softball leagues.

He taught English as a second language to the Spanish-speaking ballplayers on the Lexington Legends minor-league baseball team and was a professor of sociology at several Eastern Kentucky University campuses and Bluegrass Community & Technical College.

In May, Rosenberg, 57, was driving home after giving a final exam at BCTC and was killed in a automobile crash on Interstate 75 in Fayette County, his wife said.

Her husband really liked the fact the college classes he taught “were not huge, so he could get to know the students, each and every one of them,” she said. “He had a crazy sense of humor and he wasn’t afraid to use that in the classroom. He was definitely unconventional.”

As an advocate for the migrant community, Rosenberg also liked that students who attend BCTC do not have to prove their citizenship.

Some of his former Hispanic students are scheduled to attend the benefit concert Saturday and talk about what they are doing now and why a scholarship like this is so important to immigrants, Widman said.

“Gil was always fascinated to hear those stories, about how they (migrants) ended up here. Our house would be an international center at times,” remembered Widman, who said her husband always befriended international students.

Rosenberg's concern for the situation of the migrant community began in his college days when he worked half the year in Oregon orchards picking fruit.

He became friends with workers who traveled from Mexico and gained “a whole insight into the life of a migrant worker,” Widman said. “He had a really tender spot in his heart for them. They were willing to work hard and take many risks to support their families.”

She and Rosenberg moved from California to Kentucky in 1980 to volunteer for the Christian Appalachian Project and never left.  

Rosenberg finished his degree at Berea College and got an assistantship at the University of Kentucky to work toward a master’s degree in rural sociology and agriculture. That is when he really got back in touch with migrant-worker issues, his wife said.

The scholarship will be awarded at the beginning of each fall semester to a student who “exemplifies some of the characteristics and traits Gil had,” said Widman, such as “a concern for family and neighbors and a drive to work hard to make things better.”

The first scholarship recipient was a teenager from Guatemala who was living here on his own and was working toward a degree in computer science, she said.

To apply for the scholarship or make donations, visit the Migrant Network Coalition website at www.mnclex.org. The benefit concert is $10 per adult and $5 per student/child.

For details, call 986-9039.

Crystal Wylie can be reached at cwylie@richmondregister.comor 623-1669, Ext. 6696.

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