EAST AMWELL, NJ - Four college students are starting the semester with help from scholarships awarded by Kirkpatrick Memorial Presbyterian Church in Ringoes. Each received $2,500 from a scholarship fund created in the will of Samuel Ayres, who died in 1962.

And without court-approved changes made in who was eligible for an award, it’s likely they and dozens of other students would have been left out over the years.

Thie 2019 recipients and the schools they are attending: Jenna Atzert of Ringoes, The College of New Jersey; Ashlyne Bacorn of Reaville, Georgetown College in Kentucky; Declan Bacorn of Reaville, Ohio University; Andrew Cronce of Hillsborough, New Jersey Institute of Technology.

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Ayres, who lived in Somerville but was a member of Kirkpatrick, never married and had no children, gave around $236,000 -- the bulk of his estate -- to the church. He had been assistant to the vice president of the Ruberoid Co. in South Bound Brook, in charge of sales.

His will called for putting two-thirds of the Kirkpatrick bequest into a scholarship fund for members of the congregation. Originally no more than five awards could be made a year, each was for no more than $1,500 and only to young women who were unable to afford higher education, attending a college in New Jersey, studying to become teachers and agreeing to teach for at least a year.

Because the church didn’t always have enough students meeting such criteria, it went to court and in 1969 a judge removed several requirements including the women-only criteria, as well as the maximum amount, in-state location, course of study and teaching. Also, scholarships were made open to graduate students.

Each year the income earned on the invested money is distributed to students, with the amount depending on the fund income. As many as 18 scholarships have been awarded annually, to full-time, part-time and grad students.