Hays entrepreneur honors inspirational teacher with namesake gift at Fort Hays State University


By the FHSU Foundation

HAYS, Kan. – On a beautiful spring afternoon in downtown Hays, Joseph Boeckner met his kindergarten teacher, Marilyn Davidson, to surprise her by announcing that he had started a scholarship in her name.

Although he was a student in Davidson’s class nearly 30 years ago, Boeckner, who now owns several Hays businesses, said it was Davidson’s teaching style and patience that led to his success later in life.

Davidson, a lifelong Hays educator, is a beloved presence in her classroom and to those who know her in the community. From an early age, Davidson mirrored his parents, both teachers, by teaching his stuffed animals on the stairs of his childhood home. She then combined her passion for education, music and working with young children to shape her career.

Davidson first attended Southwestern University to study music, then pursued his master’s degree in elementary education at Fort Hays State University over the summers while raising his family until he graduated in 1971. . She really cared about her students and it showed.

Davidson’s creativity and musical ability influenced his learning environment. She often spent her summers making kimonos, igloos, trees and castles to inspire her students to experience other cultures and engage in learning key concepts. She then linked learning to music to develop rhythm and other sensory and reading skills.

After a few years of teaching kindergarten, she moved on to first grade. Since retiring from education, Davidson continues to volunteer and teach reading and music at Wilson Elementary. Davidson’s care and attention to his young students exemplifies the commitment to teaching that Boeckner hopes this scholarship will instill in future educators.

“To educate is to be able to see the progression from knowing nothing to knowing how to read. And reading is a big part of people’s lives,” Davidson said.

Boeckner fondly recalls his time with Davidson and their relationship. “She was a great role model as well as being a great teacher. We kept in touch over the years, and I occasionally returned to his class to help him with projects. She believed in me at a very young age. It was never about who was my favorite teacher,” he said.

After high school, life got busy for Boeckner, who joined the military and then began starting his businesses, which caused a disconnect with Davidson. When Davidson’s 57-year-old husband, Harvey, died in December 2021, Boeckner began to reflect on the impact she had on him and wanted to pay it forward. It was then that he began planning the creation of the Marilyn G. Davidson Scholarship.

The endowed scholarship is intended to support students pursuing a degree in teacher education. It is available to on-campus and online students, full-time or part-time, majoring in teacher education.

Although preference is given to students who have expressed an interest in working at Ellis County Schools, other students may still receive the award if that preference is not met. Students are encouraged to apply annually for renewal of this award.

Davidson hopes the award will encourage students to pursue education and help needy students pay for their education.

“Teachers will always be needed. However, passionate and impactful teachers like Ms. Davidson are not a dime a dozen. We need teachers who genuinely care about the students and appreciate all that Hays has to offer. Hopefully this scholarship helps remove a barrier to entry for a few teachers who can fit into those big shoes,” Boeckner said.

Boeckner is a serial entrepreneur with several Hays companies, including Joe Bob Outfitters, HaysTees, New Age Services and, most recently, Blackhawk Motorsports. He and his wife, Jodi, also invest in several other businesses in town. In addition to their many business ventures, Joseph and Jodi have two children, Michael and Hadley.

To learn more about how you can make a difference in your community by creating a scholarship, please contact the Fort Hays State University Foundation by email at [email protected] or by phone at 785-628-5620. You can also visit https://foundation.fhsu.edu.

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