Fay Sasser Scholarship Winners Share Aspirations and Inspirations

Pictured above Ali Gunesch, Mackenzie Parrott, and Quintana Franklin

Over the course of more than four decades, Fay Sasser welcomed everyone who arrived at MAC, from her seat at the Front Desk, with quiet professionalism and a warm smile. Her reputation for consistent and personalized service is one of the stories that inspires the current member experience. It also continues to be associated with a generous MAC employee scholarship program that annually awards $5,000 for students to use in an academic year while pursuing degrees ranging from associate to graduate level.

The Fay Sasser MAC Employee Scholarship, an ongoing partnership between the Multnomah Athletic Foundation (MAF) and MAC, is open to part-time and full-time employees and their dependents. This year’s recipients are three thoughtful and ambitious young women: a ski coach who loves the teaching aspects of medicine; a dancer on a path to a doctorate in physical therapy, and an environmental studies major with a goal of helping better the world for future generations. Learn more about their aspirations and the people who inspire them.

Ali Gunesch

Club members with young skiers in the family are likely to know Ali Gunesch as one of their coaches. “The MAC Ski program feels like a genuine community. I do my best each day to support the athletes. In turn, I myself feel supported by the families of these young people. I did not know Fay Sasser, but I have learned what a beloved part of the community she was, and it is an honor to win the scholarship bearing her name.”

In addition to her passion for skiing and coaching, Gunesch is committed to helping others through medicine. As a third- year medical student at OHSU who is paying for school herself, she explains that “Support like this allows me to remain open to pursing whatever specialty where I can see myself making the most difference,” she notes. “In the next year I will finalize my decision about which specialty to pursue; right now, I am focused on learning as much as I can, to become the best doctor that I can be.”

It’s not difficult to imagine how MAF’s mission of advancing achievement through athletics resonates with Gunesch. “My own experience as a ski racer taught me the value of athletics. I learned how to set goals, how to find grit through challenges, and how to be a supportive member of a team. These lessons have helped me in every facet of my life and have certainly been invaluable in medical school. I try to instill these same skills in the athletes that I coach, as they support each other and strive for their own goals. I firmly believe in MAF’s mission, as every young person should have the opportunity to learn these lessons through sport.

When asked about who inspires her, Gunesch’s response couldn’t have been closer to home: “It may sound cliché, but as I grow older, I become more and more inspired by my mom. She is a ski coach, as well as a teacher, and she brings an unparalleled passion to her work with young people. She has also been a trailblazer as a female ski coach, working extremely hard to carve out her place in a male-dominated profession. The leadership of women like her has paved the way for someone like me to coach in a much more egalitarian (though still underrepresented) environ- ment. I only hope to one day educate my patients with the same level of passion, and mentor up-and-coming women with the same level of ferocity.”

Quintana Franklin

For Quintana Franklin, these scholarship funds mean that her dream of becoming a physical therapist can become a reality. She is currently studying kinesiology at Pacific University and has an eye on graduate school and a PhD in physical therapy. “I plan to specialize in dance as a physical therapist because I want to combine my work and my passion,” she explains. “The path to a doctorate is long, difficult, and expensive. With these funds, I can pursue my passion and, someday, I will be able to help others every day.”

Franklin learned of the scholarship through her mother, MAC Fitness team member Valarie Stegall. “MAF’s belief that athletics can help people reach their full potential resonated with me because dance has been such an influencer in my life and is something I’m incredibly passion- ate about. To me, dance is a part of me, not just something I do, and it has helped me to gain things like a good work ethic, determination, and resilience that have greatly helped me in my life, especially with applying to colleges.

“My former dance teacher, Margretta Hansen, inspires me because she teaches in a way that makes everyone feel welcome and comfortable in her classes. She is one of the main reasons why I dance like I do and why I think dance should be about enjoyment, passion, and emotion, not perfection.”

Mackenzie Parrott

Seeing the meaningful connections her mom, Kimmie Brunke, has made over the past 20 years as a MAC yoga instructor motivated Kenzie Parrott to become involved in the club community as a Fitness attendant. “It was amazing seeing all the various skills and hard work every- one brought to the table. I learned so much from working at MAC and gained communication and leadership skills, which all inspired me to apply for this scholarship.

“The past few years I have gone back and forth between how I was going to pay for college while still getting the education I deserve. These funds make it possible for me to focus on my studies and make my college experience less stressful. It feels like a weight has been lifted off me and my family’s shoulders.”

I plan to study environmental science with a minor in global studies at the University of Oregon. I hope to do lots of field work, conduct research, and study abroad. I chose environmental science because of the climate crisis and how important it is for me to take action now. My goal is to be able to make a change within the world whether it’s big or small.”

Parrott finds inspiration in the power education has to change the world, but she also draws inspiration from something different every day. “I see qualities in my friends and family that motivate me to continue down the path of finding the best version of myself. I would say that I also find inspiration through artists. I love reading books, watching movies, listening to stories that give me new perspectives and outlooks on the world.”

Each of these remarkable individuals has someone in their lives who has inspired them along their journey. The spirit of Fay Sasser is captured in their passion for people and as they make a difference in their everyday encounters. Scholarships and opportunities like these are made possible by supporting the Multnomah Athletic Foundation. To learn more about the collective impact of MAC members through the Annual Fund Drive, visit MultnomahAthleticFoundation.com.

Written by the MAF Communications Team.

Originally published in the September 2021 Issue of The Winged M magazine.