Michael S. Kroian Sr. treated his students from Warwick Vets Memorial High School and Gorton Jr. High as family and created a bond that still lasts to this day.
“Many, many students before I got there and after I left really came to view Mr. Kroian as a family member,” said Karen Grande, a former student of Kroian. “He was, without a question, the most important teacher I ever had. He had the biggest influence on my life and I believe that’s true to a very large number of students.”
When Kroian died of a brain tumor in 2009, his former students wanted to honor his memory; so they created a committee to establish the Michael S. Kroian Sr. Scholarship Fund.
Since then, the committee, which consists mostly of students from the ’70s and ’80s, have worked to keep his memory alive by melding his two passions, golf and music, into the Michael S. Kroian Memorial Golf Tournament.
“My father also owned the East Greenwich Country Club,” said Kroian’s daughter Carolyn Kroian Costa. “He built that in 1962 and owned it for about 45 years. This is kind of a combination of his two passions, golf and music.”
The tournament, which consists of a silent auction, opportunities for tee sponsorship and lunch, is the committee’s main fundraiser. Scholarships are given to students attending the University of Rhode Island, where Kroian graduated with a music degree, and Rhode Island College, with Warwick students given a preference.
The scholarships are for students pursuing degrees in music and are intended as a way for students to pay for private music lessons. Last year, the group awarded two $500 scholarships.
“Most voice or instrumental students have to pay for private lessons from an instructor. The scholarships that we offer are meant to pay for these lessons,” said Grande.
Through fundraising efforts, former students have raised $29,894, leaving them about $10,000 short of their goal. The group hopes the tournament will bring them closer to $40,000. The group seeks cash donations, as well as prizes and items for the silent auction.
While music was Kroian’s passion, his former students maintain that he also taught them many life lessons.
“I was a member of the chorale when I was in high school and Mike had a huge impact on me,” said Denise Mair. “Not so much the music, but the teamwork. The thought that you could literally pull together a group of misfits and we were able to do amazing, amazing things together.”
“He just gave everybody rules about how to live the right way and how to treat other people,” said Grande.
While students have their own memories of Kroian, they share one common thread; the trips Kroian took with the chorale to Europe.
“It gave students an opportunity to travel and see things they never would have gotten to see otherwise,” said Costa. “It was magical; they got to sing and draw crowds.”
Kroian led the trips himself, busing 30 to 40 kids all over Europe. He planned fundraisers to make the trips affordable for students, which many said taught them responsibility.
Grande said all of her fundraising efforts and hard work was well worth it, as the trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“To be in Europe with 40 of your closest friends, singing in amazing cathedrals with great acoustics, well it’s something you can’t replicate,” she said.
Mair recently revisited some of the cities she had sung in with Kroian and the chorale in high school.
“Three of the cities we went to, the last time I’d been there had been with the chorale. It was really cool to realize that more than 30 years ago I had been there with a group of people that are still my best friends today,” she said.
The Third Annual Michael S. Kroian Sr. Memorial Golf Tournament will be held Aug. 19 at Trigg’s Memorial Golf Course in Providence. Registration will begin at 7:15 a.m. and the tournament will start at 8. Two new contests will be held, a $10,000 Hole-In-One Contest sponsored by the Tin Cup Golf and Driving Range and a $5,000 Putting Contest sponsored by Gals for Cal. Information about the golf tournament or how to make a donation can be found at www.wvmhschorale.com.