A $1,000 gift from an Ada resident will help two East Central University students travel to Russia next spring to learn more about the country and language they are studying.
Linda Ainsworth made the gift on behalf of her late husband, Gary Ainsworth, an Ada businessman who had made several trips to Ukraine and had taken Russian language classes at ECU taught by Dr. Mara Sukholutskaya, associate professor of English and languages.
A $1,000 gift from Linda Ainsworth (left) on behalf of her late husband, Gary Ainsworth (right), will help two students in East Central University's Russian Studies Program travel to Russia next spring. An account has been opened through the ECU Foundation Inc. to continue funding the new scholarship. Information is available from Dr. Gerald Williamson at 580-559-5590.
Sukholutskaya conducts trips to Russia and Ukraine each spring to help students and others learn more about the countries' culture and languages.
To qualify for the $500 scholarships, ECU students should be active in ECU's Russian Studies Program, be good students and understand the importance of experiencing Russian culture at home and in Russia and Ukraine, Sukholutskaya said.
"We would hope that students will enjoy the experience and will take something away from the trips," Linda Ainsworth said, "something that could not be gained by attending the course only. And they will see that there are good people everywhere. When Gary got sick, prayers were said for him in many parts of the world: Italy, Russia, Ukraine, Israel, Australia and other countries. Those were the people he met through his work and through the university."
Gary Ainsworth died in September 2007.
"It's important for the students to visit the country of the language they are learning," Sukholutskaya said. "Traveling is an education in itself. It's financially difficult for most of the students to afford traveling to Russia. This gift will help. Gary was a very generous person and helped a lot of people."
In addition, an account has been opened through the ECU Foundation Inc. to continue funding this new scholarship. Anyone wishing to contribute can contact Dr. Gerald Williamson in the University Advancement Office at 580-559-5590.
The Ainsworths have been supporters of ECU's Russian program and were thrilled when the university established a minor in Russian Studies, hoping the program would develop further, Sukholutskaya said. They helped fund Mikhail Gorbachev's visit to ECU, hosted Russian Christmas parties and a Russian brunch for students studying Russian and opened their home to the Russian cosmonauts who visited Ada and to several other dignitaries.
They also joined ECU students of Russian several times on their trips to cultural events in Oklahoma and Texas.
Sukholutskaya said she met Gary Ainsworth in the early 1990s when his company, Look Inc., started a joint venture with a company in Ukraine.
"They brought several people here and needed someone to translate for them. I guess somebody told him about me and he contacted me," she said. "I interpreted for them, which was interesting. And the following semester he enrolled in Elementary Russian I.
"Gary was a very outgoing person. Despite the fact that was probably the oldest person in the group, he was definitely the most energetic. He made friends with everybody and was very good in role-plays that I used in my class," she said.
Her students also were supposed to memorize a poem by Alexander Bloch.
Several months later Gary Ainsworth went to Kiev, Ukraine, to see the facilities there.
"As he was descending from the airplane," Sukholutskaya explained, "he wanted to say, 'Hello. How are you?' in Russian. But all he could remember was a line from the poem, so he said 'Noch, ledyanaya glad kanala...' 'Night, the icy smoothness of the canal.'
"The impression that this produced was very surprising to Gary," she said. "A person who met him at the airport was very touched and even shed a tear because he thought that Gary just loved Russian poetry and culture and that was how he expressed it. He was not certain why Gary was quoting something about winter in the middle of the summer, but concluded that it was his favorite line.
"I always tell this story to my students because it demonstrates that poetry is important to Russians and Ukrainians alike," she added.
Linda Ainsworth said her late husband liked the people of Ukraine. He visited Ukraine three times. She went with him once to Ukraine and with ECU groups to Russia in 2000 and 2008. She also has taken several Russian language and literature classes at ECU.
# # #