Man leaves $6.6 million to parish scholarship fund

CLEVELAND (AP) - A businessman has left $6.6 million to the scholarship fund of an inner-city parish, the first church founded in Ohio by immigrants from Slovenia.

The bequest from the estate of Edward Mihevic, who died in 1998 at the age of 78, was announced Sunday by his daughter, Donna Boekley of Fort Myers, Fla.

The gift was kept secret until a special brunch after Mass at the church located just east of downtown Cleveland.

"This kind of generosity is unbelievable," said Theresa Rihtar, a longtime parishioner from suburban Richmond Heights.

Boekley told parishioners that her father was a shy and humble man who cherished the higher education that poverty kept him from attaining.

"He had no formal education and he lacked social skills," she said. "If he were here today, he would be standing way in the back of the room."

Mihevic, the son of Slovenian immigrants, started out as a saloon keeper and became a manufacturer and real estate developer.

Mihevic's gift will be added to a $300,000 grant he had given in 1989 to establish the scholarship fund. Each year for the last 13 years, the fund has given about 30 students in the parish tuition grants ranging between $1,000 and $5,000, depending on need.

Stan Kuhar, a parishioner and one of the administrators of the fund, said the $6.6 million will allow the fund to give more money to about twice as many students.

St. Vitus, established 109 years ago as Ohio's first Slovenian parish, has about 1,700 members, some of whom travel from suburban homes to worship. The church still operates a grade school with 190 students, many of whom come from poor families and are not members of the parish.

Only parishioners can benefit from the scholarship fund, which is to be used for high school and first-year college tuition.

"It gave me a chance to go to a really good high school," said Nichole Gulley, 19, a black member of the church who graduated from St. Augustine Academy in suburban Lakewood. "That was the only source of financial aid I had and I got it all four years."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)