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Pat McKernon's $1.7M Gift Will Benefit Elmwood High School Students Forever

Surprise bequest will provide scholarships for generations of Elmwood students and adults returning to school

Above: Patrick (Pat) McKernon fishing on a river. Photo courtesy of the McKernon Family.

Patrick (Pat) McKernon was beloved. Family, friends, and colleagues remember him as an uncommonly kind, caring, and generous person. When he died in September of 2023, his final gift of generosity came as a massive surprise to those who knew him and the St. Croix Valley Foundation (SCVF).

Pat left a testamentary gift to SCVF, ensuring that more than $1.7M would be stewarded professionally to provide scholarships to students graduating from Elmwood High School, Pat’s alma mater, and adults residing in Pierce County who are returning to school.

“This gift is astounding in the best way,” said SCVF President and CEO Heather Logelin. “While we didn’t know Pat, we know he valued education and enjoyed giving others the opportunity to pursue their dreams. We are humbled that Pat chose us to steward his legacy, and we’re excited about the impact the McKernon Scholarship Fund will have on students from Pierce County.”

Established as an endowed scholarship fund, the McKernon Scholarship Fund will be invested professionally for long-term growth, with a portion of earnings available for scholarships each year. SCVF staff are working with Pat’s family members to ensure that his intentions are honored and that his gift will forever support this opportunity for higher education. 

“The amount of the gift was surprising, only because we never discussed his finances,” said Pat’s niece-in-law Jill McKernon. “It was not out of character, though, because Pat was a very generous person. He graduated from Elmwood High School and knew he wanted his gift to serve that community, so I’m sure he did his research on the best foundation to serve his needs.”

Pat’s twin brother Michael (Mike) McKernon did not know that Pat planned to establish a scholarship through his estate. The gift, says Mike, is true to Pat’s nature in every way: it fulfilled Pat’s love of giving back and he brought absolutely no attention to it.

Mike recalls the impact Elmwood had on their lives, fondly reliving their experiences growing up in the village of 800 in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Mike and Pat – along with sisters Mary and Jan – graduated from Elmwood High School. Their father was both a teacher and a coach in the district, coaching the boys in baseball and football. Mike recalls that of the 24 boys in their freshman class, 23 went out for football.

“We knew everyone in our class,” said Mike. “We pretty much knew everyone in the high school. We could go out on our bikes and we could be out of town, into the woods in any direction within a five to 10 minute bike ride. We did that a lot.”

After high school, Pat attended University of River Falls (UWRF) and settled there, just 30 miles from his hometown. He worked in IT for 3M where he was both liked and deeply respected by his coworkers.

“They held him in very, very high regard,” says Mike of Pat’s colleagues. “He was really sharp, very organized, and just so obviously easy to work with, and that’s what I love to hear.”

Pat was also a pillar in the McKernon Family, showing up for sporting events, serving as a father figure, caring for aging relatives, and even letting a niece live with him while she attended UWRF. He never married nor had children, but Pat’s nieces, nephews, and their children were dear to him. Niece-in-law Jill remembers that Pat’s kindness and generosity were always on full display.

“Pat was a wonderful gift giver,” says Jill, who lives in South Carolina her husband Sam and their three kids. “He loved to give experience gifts – tickets to events and things like that. He was another grandpa to our kids. They called him Gruncle Pat – for ‘Great Uncle’ or ‘Grandpa Uncle.’ He loved to golf and spend time with his friends and family.”

Pat’s love for sports, activities, and family came through in other ways, too.

“He came to everything that we did,” said Mike. “Family vacations, we’d go to Packer games, we’d go to a Badger game every year. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter. We’d go on vacations, and we’d always invite him. He went to final four basketball games, he went to the US Open…”

Golfing took Pat on trips to the United Kingdom, while fishing brought him to Canada on an annual fishing and houseboat trip with some of his closest friends, a 30-year tradition.

“Pat was an organizer and he organized the boat trip,” says Mike. “They started going up and they camped in tents, then they started making a little extra money and going on this houseboat, and they never, ever pitched tents again!”

In June, Pat’s friends will make their annual trip to Canada to spend time fishing on the houseboat. This year, the group has given the adventure a somber new name: The Patrick McKernon Memorial Trip. Mike knows that Pat will be remembered dearly by friends, colleagues, and family members. And thanks to his final generous gift, the McKernon Scholarship Fund will continue to honor Pat’s legacy of generosity for graduates of Elmwood High School and adult learners from Pierce County – forever.


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