Scholarship Qualifications, History and Purpose
Started in 2006, The Eric Stuart Obermann Foundation was created to provide the “most improved” Grissom Band Senior with a scholarship. In 2016, the scholarship was expanded to award one student from Grissom and one additional student from another high school within the Huntsville City School system. To be eligible, applicants must:
- Be a graduating senior in a band program in Huntsville City Schools or Madison County High Schools
- Plan to attend a two or four-year college or accredited program; and
- Continue to be part of a musical ensemble post-graduation while in college
Eric Obermann was a member of the graduating class of 2000 of Virgil I. Grissom High School. While attending Grissom, Eric was heavily involved in both the symphonic and marching bands. When he was a senior, he was voted “best marcher” by his peers and played 1st clarinet in the Symphonic I (“A”) band, while maintaining his status as an honor student.
As computer technology was Eric’s academic passion, he decided to major in computer science at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. Moreover, with music still being one of his top priorities, he managed to be one of the top clarinetists in the Georgia Tech Symphonic Band even with his full academic schedule. Band was always an important part of Eric’s life, and due primarily to his time spent with the Grissom High School Band; it was an experience which he said had a dramatic, positive impact on his life.
Unfortunately, Eric was not able to remain at Georgia Tech or as part of their symphonic band. At nineteen years of age, during his second year of college, Eric was diagnosed with ALS.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) is a progressive neuromuscular disease that attacks motor neurons and causes nerve degeneration throughout the brain and spinal cord. Slowly but surely, one function at a time, all muscular movement becomes impossible – impairing the ability to move your arms, walk, swallow or even breathe. Eventually, all attempts at effective communication and self-care become impossible. However, all mental and sensory abilities remain fully intact. Many patients state the disease is like “being trapped” inside one’s own body – a body that no longer works. There is no known cause, treatment, or cure for ALS.
As his disease progressed, Eric became completely paralyzed, dependent on a ventilator to breathe and a wheelchair to move. He eventually lost all ability to communicate. Despite his rapidly deteriorating condition, he remained engaged with people and activities. He attended concerts and movies in his wheelchair and was heavily involved in ALS advocacy and awareness. Eric travelled to Washington, D.C. regularly to meet with legislators and once spoke at a Congressional Hearing on ALS. Instead of dwelling on his disabilities, he focused on his remaining abilities. Sadly, Eric lost his 10 year battle with ALS in August 2010. More on Eric’s story and involvement as an ALS Advocate can be found here.
The non-profit Eric S. Obermann Foundation was created with Eric’s direct involvement. The mission is to provide financial aid for a band student who wishes to attend a two- or four-year accredited college, and continue being an active part of a musical ensemble – things that Eric wishes he could have done – as well as to raise awareness and advocate for ALS.