Jeffrey Birk Scholarship
The youngest of three children, Jeffrey Birk struggled in his early years to develop his own identity. With the loving help of family and special people who entered his life, Jeff became one of CLU’s finest examples of what can be achieved with the proper attitude and determination.
Even in elementary school, Jeff had problems with discipline and academics. His mother, a teacher, worked tirelessly to help him adjust. The family moved to Southern California when Jeff was in middle school, and he became involved with the youth group of a local church. The youth pastor took a special interest in Jeff and encouraged him to consider going to a small private college. A visit to the campus of California Lutheran University sparked Jeff’s interest in the PLUS enrichment program directed by Pastor Gerry Swanson.
When the time came, Jeff applied and was accepted into the PLUS program. That decision made all the difference. Amazing things began to happen. Here are just a few:
Jeff graduated with honors, with a double major in English and history and a minor in Religion. He received CLU’s Mark Van Doren Poetry Prize twice—in 1986 and 1987.He served as a feature writer for the Echo, the student newspaper. And he served as president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter at CLU.
As a student teacher and in his first full-time teaching position, he engendered a genuine love of learning in his students. He also won the respect of his co-teachers. He made it a practice to live frugally in order to share what he had with others.
In 1981, Jeff developed aplastic anemia and became a patient at City of Hope Hospital. His body rejected a bone marrow transplant from his older brother, and he began to decline. A week before his death, Jeff gave his parents the following instructions. His personal savings were to be divided between his two college roommates, but only if they would use the money to complete their education. Each roommate received $5,000, and both became CLU graduates. That was one of Jeff’s most amazing accomplishments.
Jeff was much loved, as demonstrated by the many memorial gifts that endowed this scholarship in his name. The Jeffrey Birk Scholarship has simple criteria: the student must be of the Christian faith and be preparing to become a teacher. The recipients of this award bearing Jeff’s name have much to live up to in the example he set for them.