Isaac Hertenstein wins 2024 Lilly Scholarship
by Jared Jernagan, Editor, Banner Graphic
Originally published Monday, December 4, 2023 in the Banner Graphic.
Awed. Humbled. Grateful.
On a day could understandably have been all about him, 2024 Putnam County Lilly Endowment Community Scholar Isaac Hertenstein was not talking about his own accomplishments.
Instead, the Greencastle High School senior, son of Matthew and Margo Hertenstein, was thinking of the support he’s received from the Greencastle and Putnam County community.
“It’s absolutely incredible. I was not expecting it in any way, but I think, hopefully, the Lilly Scholarship is a culmination of the support the community has just given me over the last four years in particular and throughout my entire life,” Hertenstein said. “I’ve done all sorts of different things over the last few years throughout high school. From teachers to principals to community members, everyone has always been so supportive. I think this is kind of the culmination of that.”
As has become tradition for the Putnam County Community Foundation, which administers the scholarship locally, the announcement was in a surprise visit to GHS Monday afternoon. Leaders from PCCF and the school, as well as Hertenstein’s parents and godparents Matt and Tonya Welker speculated as to how much Isaac might know what was coming.
He entered the room to the smiling crowd and only one word crossed his lips.
“Wow,” he said.
Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship (LECS) committee member Jenna Lanham was the first to greet him.
“So we all know you’re a pretty bright guy, and we’re guessing you have a pretty good prediction as to why we’re all here together,” Lanham said. “So congratulations on being the 2024 Putnam County Lilly Scholar.”
“Thank you. Oh my gosh,” Hertenstein said.
If he knew beforehand, he hid it very well.
“Thank you all so much. This is shocking,” he reiterated. “Thank you, obviously, for this opportunity and for everyone’s support being here.”
Asked if he was tipped off, Hertenstein did note that he saw PCCF Community Development Director Dean Gambill’s Hyundai in the parking lot.
Dad Matt Hertenstein was just happy he wasn’t the one to spill the beans, having known all weekend.
“I have a habit and a reputation for never giving somebody something on Christmas because I can’t wait to give it to them,” Matt said. “I told them, if they tell us in advance, I’ll do my best. I’m glad it wasn’t me. That’s all I’m going to say.”
The prestigious scholarship will provide full tuition and fees for four years of attendance at any Indiana college or university. In addition, recipients receive a $900 annual stipend for required books and equipment. Also, any private university in the state, with the exception of Notre Dame, will also cover room and board.
Selection criteria for the Lilly Scholarship is based on scholastic abilities and intellectual pursuits, capacity to lead and motivate fellow students, social commitment and extracurricular involvement, and the ability to articulate career plans that demonstrate motivation and initiative.
“Isaac is a terrific example of the highly qualified candidates that our committee had the honor to consider this year,” Lanham said. “His academic achievements, leadership experience and generosity of spirit made him stand out as the 2024 Putnam County Lilly Scholar. Our community should feel so much pride for the class of 2024 in Putnam County.”
That generosity of spirit was on display as Hertenstein spoke about his latest accomplishment. Long interested in finance, his interest does not seem to spring from a desire to enrich his own wealth.
“I’ve tried to pour my interest back into the community in whatever way I can, and hopefully tried to contribute to it and serve it in ways that are meaningful to me, and I think that will impact other people too,” Hertenstein said. “So whether that’s the (PCCF) Youth Philanthropy Committee and trying to support other youth-led non-profits and projects or Students Teaching Finance and teaching financial literacy to kids around the world, it’s been an incredible journey. I hope it will continue impacting other people in Greencastle even when I graduate from high school as other kids continue teaching financial literacy too.
“It’s been an incredible journey over the last four years, and it’s fun to end up this way.”
As hinted in these comments, Hertenstein’s leadership extends beyond the classroom. As a freshman, he founded his non-profit organization, which engages more than 300 volunteers across 17 states to teach financial literacy and empower economic mobility for youth.
He currently serves as president of Greencastle High School’s DECA club where he was named that Indiana State Champion in Financial Literacy. He is a member of National Honor Society, Ethics Bowl, band and cross country.
In 2022, Hertenstein earned the esteemed title of Indiana Youth Volunteer of the Year from Serve Indiana. He also serves on the Putnam County Community Foundation’s Youth Philanthropy Committee and is an active member of St. Paul’s Catholic Church.
Each Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship provides for full tuition, required fees and a special allocation of up to $900 per year for required books and required equipment for four years of undergraduate study on a full-time basis leading to a baccalaureate degree at any eligible Indiana public or private nonprofit college or university.
Isaac hopes to attend the University of Notre Dame to study finance and philosophy, a combination of interests that he believes will serve him well. On Monday, he also noted that he is considering Indiana University, among other institutions to which he applied.
“I hope to study either finance or economics depending on where I end up for college,” he said. “With that, I hope to learn the technical chops but also have some sort of ethical framework for hopefully leading non-profits in the future. Obviously I’ve started off with the little baby steps with Students Teaching Finance, but hopefully the sort of organizations that can employ the power of business but, in individual communities, to impact other people and potentially combat poverty and other issues.”
It all started with his desire to serve Greencastle.
“My experiences serving our community — particularly by teaching financial literacy and investigating the ethical implications of economic inequality — catalyzed my love for the power of business and philosophy to impact society,” Hertenstein said.
A teacher said of him, “Isaac is a student who carefully plans for his future, reaching for challenges that will develop his acumen in both academics and leadership. His first priority, however, is serving his community. Even more, he searches for ways for community impact to be effectively scaled to provide lasting change beyond the original scope.”
Applications for the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship are first reviewed by the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Selection Committee from the Putnam County Community Foundation. The local selection committee is composed of eight voting members, with two members residing within each of the geographic areas served by the four county school corporations. The LECS nomination process is highly competitive. There were 13 qualified applicants for the one scholarship award.
The process included a blind review for the first three phases, followed by a dinner in which the selection committee met with eight semifinalists. The process concluded with four finalists having individual interviews with the committee.
Even in his moment of accomplishment, Hertenstein insisted he believed it would be one of the other three finalists — Caroline Hodge of South Putnam, Emily Mann of Cloverdale or Gabrielle Simonson of North Putnam.
“I wish we had four Lilly Scholarships to give to all four,” he said.
Following the personal interviews, the committee submitted its nominee and alternates to Independent Colleges of Indiana Inc. (ICI) for the final selection of the recipient. ICI is a nonprofit corporation that represents 30 regionally accredited degree granting, nonprofit, private colleges and universities in the state which administers the scholarship program.
Lilly Endowment created the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Program for the 1998-99 school year and has supported the program every year since with grants totaling in excess of $505 million. More than 5,200 Indiana students have received the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship since the program’s inception.
The scholarships are the result of a statewide Lilly Endowment initiative to help Hoosier students reach high levels of education. The primary purposes of the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Program are 1) to help raise the level of educational attainment in Indiana; 2) to increase awareness of the beneficial roles Indiana community foundations can play in their communities; and 3) to encourage and support the efforts of current and past Lilly Endowment Community Scholars to engage with each other and with Indiana business, governmental, educational, nonprofit and civic leaders to improve the quality of life in Indiana generally and in local communities throughout the state.
For additional information about the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Program or other opportunities at the Putnam County Community Foundation, contact Sarah Stone at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office at 653-4978.
In the end, Monday was Isaac Hertenstein’s day, a day in which he thanked those who helped him, from his parents to business teachers Kara Jedele and Brittany Labhart to Gambill to many others.
“So may people have played an incredible role, particularly in Students Teaching Finance but also throughout my high school experience,” Hertenstein said. “So I’m really thankful to the Foundation, to my teachers, to the school, my parents, everyone, my friends have been incredibly supportive along the way.”
Now it’s time for those who’ve helped Hertenstein to enjoy seeing where these opportunities take him.
“It takes a village to try and impact a village,” he said. “Hopefully I can contribute to that in some way. It’s been great to receive that support, and hopefully I can try and pay it back in some way and continue developing the things I’m passionate about.”