Family of James L French to Fund LTC Scholarship





Lakeshore Technical College has received funding for a long term scholarship program from the family of James and Mary Lou French. The $300,000 gift will provide scholarships to LTC students who reside in Sheboygan County that will fund up to half of tuition for the duration of their degree program.


"My father always considered his employees to be his partners, and knew that JL French could not grow, or succeed, without them.  He always had respect and admiration for his employees, and eagerly gave them much of the credit for the company's success," said David French a 25 year veteran of J.L. French Corporation.  "The James L. and Mary Lou French Scholarship is meant to honor all of the employees who contributed to the success of JL French Corporation, and hopes to inspire young people to continue their education in our local communities."


James L. French, a mechanical engineer with experience in the automotive parts business, opened the doors of JL French Corporation in Sheboygan in 1968, specializing in the manufacturing of small, aluminum engine components and marine engine products.  With an adaptive, dedicated and motivated workforce, JL French Corporation was able to grow from a manufacturer of small components to a major supplier of top quality aluminum automotive assemblies, employing over 1000 men and women.


"My father always said, 'You run this company from the floor,' meaning that he couldn't run the company from his office to 'get the pulse' of what was really going on," said Brian French who spent many of his 22 years at French "on the floor". "He knew that talking to the machine operators on all three shifts, watching the process, and inspecting the products himself was how to establish an atmosphere of teamwork."


James French retired in 1996, when he sold JL French Corporation. His wife Mary Lou passed away in 1995 from a very aggressive cancer, which was devastating to the family. Mary Lou was his support and confidant throughout the highs and lows of J.L. French Corporation and was equally responsible for the success of the company. James and Mary Lou French raised four children in Sheboygan, and James still resides in the family home there.  Daughters Paula and Jeanna, along with sons David and Brian French all grew up in the family business. All were introduced to "the floor" by their father and worked at the company for many years.


Says Jeanna French, "We were aware of our father's dedication to the industry, his company, and his employees throughout our school years.  He told stories of all aspects of the business, from the employee meetings where everyone was encouraged to contribute, to the highs and lows created by fluctuations in supply and demand. At times everyone made sacrifices for the health of the Company.  I think all of my siblings would agree that we learned a lot about the value of teamwork from our father." 



"The French family has worked together to make this is the single largest scholarship donation the college has received in its 100 year history," says LTC Foundation Board President Jay Torke. "This scholarship will serve hundreds of students in a variety of programs who otherwise couldn't afford to realize their dream of a college education. Our local communities will be stronger because of the James L. and Mary Lou French Scholarship." 


Paula French Van Akkeren said it was important to her father to give back to the Sheboygan community. "He knew how important his employees were and investing in a future workforce in the same community that gave him so much is a rewarding responsibility."


"I can't thank the French family enough for their generosity and commitment to making a difference in people's lives," said LTC President Michael Lanser.  "In turn, the recipients will make a difference to their local communities and local employers because they are very likely to remain in the area to live and work. The James L. and Mary Lou French Scholarship will be an enduring legacy of the French family."  


The scholarships can be awarded to full-time or part time LTC students who reside in Sheboygan County, regardless of age or choice of degree program. Approximately $12,000 will be disbursed annually to students who qualify for the scholarship based on financial need and the scholarship can pay up to 50% of tuition for the student's entire program. Contact Katie Willinger, LTC Foundation Director, at 693-1247 or for additional information.


About Lakeshore Technical College

Each year more than 10,000 people enroll in courses at Lakeshore Technical College. They rely on LTC for job preparation, to earn a degree, upgrade a specialized skill, train as an apprentice, or seek a high school equivalency. LTC faculty and staff meet students where they are in life and help them get one step closer to achieving their goals.<.p>

LTC, a nationally recognized technical college, was recently named a top 10 Bellwether Award finalist. The college was also ranked the #17 trade school in the nation by Forbes, the #3 two-year college in the nation for adult learners by Washington Monthly, #9 in the nation for two-year college educational outcomes by, and a top-150 two-year college for the fourth consecutive time by the Aspen Institute.

Close to 1,000 students graduate from LTC each year, and LTC’s associate degree graduates earn a median salary of $46,800 per year. In addition to the Cleveland campus, LTC serves students in Manitowoc and Sheboygan, and offers classes at four additional sites throughout the district. Visit LTC at

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