The late, great University of Michigan football play-by-play man Bob Ufer stopped broadcasting the Maize and Blue in 1981 and died in October of that year, but that doesn’t mean his legacy isn’t still felt today by young Ann Arbor athletes on their way to U-M.
Just ask the five recent recipients of the Bob Ufer Scholarship Award, five Ann Arbor Public School student-athletes who will go to U-M this fall with $8,000 in their pockets – $2,000 per year for four years – to help with expenses.
“It’s something our family wanted to do to reward students in Ann Arbor who exemplify the pursuit of athletic and academic excellence, as well as enthusiasm and love of life, which characterized our dad’s life,” said David Ufer, Bob Ufer’s son.
The Bob Ufer Scholarship Award has been given to more than 150 AAPS students since 1983, and more than $735,000 has been awarded to deserving students. This year’s winners are Sarah Morris (Skyline High School), Eric Steinhauer (Pioneer), Michael Shkolnick (Pioneer), Elaina Baker (Huron) and Emma Hammond (Huron).
The Ufer award is different in that it awards student-athletes who excel at the high school level, but who are not going on to play at the varsity level in college. If you play varsity athletics at U-M, you are not eligible for the Ufer Scholarship Award.
“I think it’s great that the Ufer family is showing such an appreciation for the importance of high school athletics,” said Baker, 17, who played water polo and swam at Huron, and who compiled a 4.0 grade-point average. “I won’t swim or play water polo in college, but I’ll always remember the great experiences I had playing sports in high school.”
The Ufer award isn’t based on sheer numbers. There is no minimum GPA, nor financial requirements, nor number of varsity high-school letters required. Much of the award is based on character of the applicant, and for that reason, the Ufer family relies heavily on the recommendation of the schools’ athletic directors to pare the applicants down to a reasonable number to interview for the award.
“We look at their application, and then we interview the ones that the athletic directors have chosen because they are the ones who know the student-athletes,” Ufer said. “We try to base it about 30-percent academically, 30-percent athletics, 20-percent community service and 20-percent financial need.”
The interview process is a real Ufer family affair. In past years, Bob Ufer’s wife, Phyllis Ufer, an early 1940s Michigan graduate, would sit in. Also present in earlier years might be Mae Ufer, Bob Ufer’s mother, a 1917 U-M grad. Today, interviewees will find David Ufer, brother Tom, sister Pam Wood, brother Bob Ufer, son Evan, or niece, Kendall Ufer. Also on hand might be Evan’s wife, Rachel; niece, Kathy Wood; or nephews Dan Wood or Billy Wood.
Bob Ufer himself, in addition to being a legendary broadcaster who did radio play-by-play for U-M for 363 consecutive games from 1945 to 1981, was a 1943 Michigan graduate. He played football as a freshman, but really made his mark in track, setting eight Michigan varsity track records, including the world quarter-mile record, which stood for five years and was a Michigan record for 32 years.
Ufer’s children went to Pioneer and his step-children went to Huron.
“I grew up with a Ufer bobblehead,” said Steinhauer, 18, a Ufer Scholarship Award winner who played wide receiver and safety in football, was a centerfielder and pitcher in baseball and earned a 3.89 GPA. “I know all about him. My parents grew up listening to him. I’m thrilled to be getting a scholarship named after him.”
As David Ufer said, the award isn’t based solely on financial need, but the $8,000 certainly helps in that regard.
“It’s a blessing to our family,” said Baker. “I have four siblings, and I know how expensive college is. It’s intimidating. I’m extremely thankful.”
AAPS is loaded with deserving student-athletes, and the competition was tough. That’s why Morris was surprised when she heard she had been awarded one of the scholarships, even though she was a four-year swimmer and water-polo player at Skyline who earned a 4.0 GPA.
“I thought I had a strong application, but I know how many great student-athletes there are and there’s no way you can assume you are going to win,” she said. “I’d just like to thank the Ufer family so much for their generosity. Getting this scholarship means so much to me.”
To contribute to the Bob Ufer Memorial Scholarship Fund, administered by the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, go to www.aaacf.org, click “give online,” and type in keyword “Ufer”. Donations can be made by check or by credit card and are tax deductible.