Peru, Nebraska– Peru State College alumni, Bob and Mary Riley Bohlken, have decided to pay it forward by endowing a scholarship for a regional student interested in teaching English or elementary school reading.

The scholarship will be awarded for the 2022-23 academic year, according to Ted L. Harshbarger, interim director of the Peru State College Foundation.

Bob was born in Nebraska City and grew up in Talmage; Mary was born in Falls City and grew up in Dawson. They met at Peru State in 1956 and married in 1958. Both were the first in their families to receive college degrees.

Bob had served in the U.S. Army from 1953-56 and was attending Peru State on the GI Bill, but that income was not sufficient. Bob recalls cleaning the Bob Inn (cafeteria) at 6 a.m. for 60 cents an hour to make financial ends meet.

Bob graduated with honors from Peru State in June 1959 and took a job teaching English, coaching forensics and directing class plays at Stanton, Iowa High School. In 1960, the Bohlkens moved to Nebraska City, with Bob teaching English, coaching forensics and directing plays.

He received his master’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1964, and was hired by Peru State College as an English, speech and theatre professor that fall. Mary completed her elementary education degree at Peru State in 1966. 

Upon receiving his doctoral degree from the University of Kansas, Bob was hired by Northwest Missouri State University at Maryville, Mo., as an associate professor and chair of its Speech and Theatre Department.  Mary received her Master of Science in Education from Northwest Missouri State University in 1976 and taught reading handicapped students at Maryville Elementary School for 20 years, retiring in 1994.

Bob served as head of the Division of Communication at Northwest from 1976 to 1983, when he relinquished his administrative responsibilities to develop research and curriculum in semantics and in listening as a language art. That resulted in two books: “Listening to Rural Midwestern Idiom/Folk Sayings” and “Learning to Listen with a Significant Other.”

Bob subsequently was inducted into the “International Society for General Semantics” and the “International Listening Association's Hall of Fame.” He retired from Northwest in 2000. But he continued to be a human-interest columnist for a local newspaper.

“We hope that some folks will remember us and encourage their deserving grandchildren or great grandchildren to apply for the scholarship,” Bob noted.

The Bohlkens still reside in Maryville, Mo.

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