MISSOULA – Kole Swartz, a 19-year-old redshirt freshman defensive end for the University of Montana Grizzly football team, lost his life in a tragic accident on March 15. An outpouring of love, support and community generosity inspired Kole’s family to find a way to give back.
Today, just weeks after an unfathomable loss, the Swartz family and UM are proud to award the first Kole Swartz Legacy Scholarship.
“Through the darkness of our unimaginable loss has come astounding support that has provided much solace and comfort for our family,” said Jennifer Swartz, Kole’s mother. “We are so thankful to the Missoula, Clinton, Frenchtown and University of Montana communities for making the Kole Swartz Legacy Scholarship a reality.”
Kole Swartz was a 6-foot-5-inch tower of passion, muscle and commitment to Griz football. He lived his life with enthusiasm, joy and love – for football and for his family, girlfriend and friends. Inspired by Kole to help kids working hard to realize their dreams on the field and in the classroom, the Swartz family designed the Kole Swartz Legacy Scholarship to benefit defensive players from Montana.
“Kole would have been so touched to see all of the ways, big and small, that he was loved by so many,” said Sean Swartz, Kole’s father. “This scholarship allows us to contribute annually to the team that Kole loved so much. It’s absolutely fitting that the first-ever winner of the Kole Swartz Legacy Scholarship is Kole’s teammate, friend and roommate, Evan Epperly.”
Epperly, a redshirt freshman from Kalispell, will play safety for the Griz during the 2015 season. He was one of Kole’s closest friends, his teammate (East-West Shrine Games, Montana-Dakota All-Star Game and the Griz) and his roommate on campus. His scholarship will be for the 2015-16 academic year.
“Kole’s family and friends have turned his tragic loss into a gift of support for generations of students to come,” said Kent Haslam, UM director of athletics. “We are truly humbled and honored to continue Kole’s legacy through this scholarship.”
Over 350 donors made contributions to the scholarship fund, which continues to grow. The Swartz Scholarship is one of more than 2,500 privately funded scholarships awarded by the University of Montana Foundation every year. To make a donation in support of the Kole Swartz Legacy Scholarship, please visit http://www.supportum.org/give/ or call 1-800-443-2593.