In His Own Words: Donor Describes Establishing Scholarship in Mother's Honor

Justin Kilchenmann happy to present first student with Margaret Kilchenmann Memorial Scholarship.

Justin KilchenmannWhen I was an incoming freshman, I applied for and received the Charity Rotch Scholarship. In my essay, I said that I would tell students still in high school how important it was that they focus on their grades early, because it would determine the college they attended. I always felt guilty that I never did that, even though I said I would. In reality, things worked out very well for me. 

I was a lazy student in school, not particularly trying too hard, but getting decent grades. No matter how well I did in high school, I still would have found my way to Kent State University at Stark, because it had everything I was looking for: a college near home, with a good reputation, that allowed me to commute so that I could still work and save money by living with my parents.

I had so many good experiences at Kent State Stark. My first semester was a struggle, as I thought that I could put forth the same amount of effort and still do as well as I did in high school. That did not work. My second semester is when I really turned the corner and discovered a love of learning that is with me to this day. 

There were two College English II classes offered at the same time. I asked an advisor which one I should take, and he pointed to the one taught by Dr. Sharon Carson. What an amazing class! English was never one of my favorite classes, but Dr. Carson’s class is certainly one that changed my outlook on learning. She had a very distinctive smile and she smiled frequently. Seeing her smile always brought a smile to my face. 

We read “Double Indemnity” by James M. Cain and watched the movie of the same title starring Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck. To this day, it is the only novel I have ever enjoyed reading. We also read several short stories, including John Updike’s “A&P”. I have never enjoyed reading, but Dr. Carson found the perfect assortment of fiction. That was the only time in my life that I’ve enjoyed reading fiction.

My mother, Margaret Kilchenmann, never attended college, but it was important to her that her children do so. She always said that she did not care what we majored in, as long as we went to college. My sister, Kimberly, later attended Kent State Stark and graduated from Kent State with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. She went on to earn a graduate degree in education from Ashland University. She has taught elementary school in this country and internationally.  

Sadly, my mother died unexpectedly from complications of influenza in April 2018. At the time, I was finishing a master’s degree in accountancy from Emporia State University. She always asked how my classes were going, as I continued to take classes and earn degrees after moving off on my own and starting a career.  

Given how much she was interested in my education, I found it fitting that a scholarship would be the best way to ensure her memory lived on in the community. My parents provided my sister and me with a place to stay, food, and transportation while we were in college. We had to pay for our own tuition and books. While my sister had a much higher GPA in high school (and college) than me, and thus received quite a bit more in scholarships than I did, we both worked part-time to pay for our education costs and both graduated debt-free. Hopefully, the Margaret Kilchenmann Memorial Scholarship can help students like my sister and me.

Caitlin Brown QuoteAfter graduating from Kent State, I spent 14 years as an auditor for the federal government. My completion of a master’s degree in accountancy, three weeks following the death of my mother, gave me the desire to try what I’ve always dreamed of doing, and that’s to teach accounting. I applied to three positions never expecting to be interviewed, but I am very fortunate that one university called me.  

I am now in my “junior” year of teaching accounting.  My style in the classroom, to a great extent, emulates many of the wonderful professors I had at Kent State Stark. Thanks to the impact Dr. Carson had on me, I speak to my students frequently about the importance of smiling. 

It is hard to be sad when you have a smile on your face!

This is the first year the Margaret Kilchenmann Memorial Scholarship will be awarded. Find out more about scholarships at Kent State Stark by visiting


POSTED: Thursday, September 3, 2020 - 1:13pm
UPDATED: Thursday, September 3, 2020 - 3:51pm
Justin Kilchenmann