Prairie Village company opens applications for scholarship honoring deceased SM East graduate

Mark Curtis loved to take his nieces and nephews bowling at Ward Parkway Lanes when he would return to the area to visit.
Mark Curtis loved to take his nieces and nephews bowling at Ward Parkway Lanes when he would return to the area to visit.

A Prairie Village-based insurance company is for the seventh year offering a $1,500 per semester college scholarship for an SM East student in honor of the owner’s brother, an SM East graduate who died in 2008.

Mark Curtis graduated from SM East in 1989 before embarking on a career in international business that had him living across Asia for 15 years, with stints in Bangkok, Jakarta, Hong Kong and Bali. Eventually, he founded his own import/export company focused on shipping playing cards to Asian casinos. In 2008, Curtis and a friend went to visit Guandong, China, where they had a meal of sushi and saki. That night, both men had a strong reaction to something in the meal, and while his friend survived, Curtis passed away. He had recently gotten engaged, and his fiance, who lives in Bali, had found out she was pregnant.

Shortly after Curtis’s passing, his brother, Jeff, a 1983 SM East graduate, and the principal of Curtis & Associates insurance company, established the Mark F. Curtis Scholarship fund to help students who shared Mark’s “sense of adventure and entrepreneurial spirit” pay for college. With the help of money donated through an annual fundraising event, a bowling tournament over Thanksgiving weekend at Ward Parkway Lanes, one of Mark’s favorite destinations when he would visit the area, the fund is able to provide scholarships for one college-bound SM East student each year.

Since its launch in 2008, the fund has provided $1,500 per semester to six students: Jacob Walters (2009); Sami Rebein (2010); Margo Brookfield (2011); Carolyn Weltner (2012); Joe Bahr (2013); Cecily Krebill (2014).

“The students we have supported have all exceeded our expectation from the first year in 2009,” Jeff said. “We are very proud of all these young adults.”

Applications for SM East seniors interested in the scholarship will be available in the SM East counseling office this week. The deadline for submitting applications is April 1.