The year 1980 marks the 20th in a row that Boston taxi drivers have picked up the fare for a most important ride -- their own scholarship fund. Since 1961 the expenses of post- secondary education have been partly defrayed for the sons and daughters of licensed taxi drivers as well as for current operators.
The Boston Taxi Industry Scholarship Fund is unique among cabdrivers in the nation and even receives a stipend from the London cabdrivers association in support of its scholarship program.
In its lifetime, it has helped more than 100 young people with higher education by awarding $125,000 in scholarships and grants. Its awards average between $500 and $1,000 per individual.
The idea for a scholarship fund to aid in furthering education arose "naturally" in a city like Boston, says Ted Kline, one of the founding fathers of the fund. The area boasts dozens of colleges and universities, any of which may be destinations in a cabbie's workday.
A three-member selection committee -- Jack Maguire, the dean of admission at Boston College; David Gudekunst, director of placement at the University of Massachusetts Harbor Campus; and Don Wrenn, a financial adviser at the National Shawnut Bank of Boston -- chooses the scholarship recipients.
Two criteria established by the fund's board of trustees govern the awards.
* EConomic need, not academic performance, determines eligibility.
* Either the parent or the recipient of a scholarship must be a licensed taxi operator in the Boston area and earn a major portion of his income by driving a cab.
The grant can be used for any school above the secondary level and is not limited to academic institutions. Past recipients hold degrees from Columbia University and Boston University, as well as trade schools and specialized courses of vocational instruction. Some are practicing lawyers or certified public accountants or work for the US State Department.
At present the fund has an endowment of $103,000.
"We must raise at least $13,000 a year," Mr. Kline says, and "can never use the principal from our endowment for anything, only proceeds from our endowment for anything, only proceeds from the investment."
Each year in its fund-raising efforts the fund hosts a banquet at which it honors a "Man of the Year." This year the award will go to Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr., Speaker of the US House of Representatives. Previous recipients have been Boston Mayor Kevin H. White, Massachusetts Gov. Edward J. King, and former US Sen. Edward W. Brooke.
Carl J. Gilbert, a former, "Man of the Year," says, "Boston is lucky in the kinds of people we have as taxi drivers. They are always helpful to people who come from out of town and are good ambassadors for the city."