C. Ray Steele Jr. and Mary Lou Steele Family Scholarship
The Steele family has had a connection with Fowler since the 1930s. Mary Lou’s parents immigrated to the area from Tennessee and Texas during the Great Depression. Ray’s father, a transplant from Oklahoma, and his mother, the daughter of German emigrants, moved from Southern California in the early 1940s.
Ray Jr. and Mary Lou grew up on farms on the opposite sides of the city. They first met while attending Sunday school at the Fowler United Presbyterian Church. They began dating while in high school and were married in that church in 1966. Both Ray and Mary Lou were active in extracurricular activities in high school. Mary Lou was a homecoming queen contestant, pep girl and cheerleader. She was chosen cinder princess in her senior year. Ray played basketball and baseball and ran the mile on the track team. He ran for student body president, losing by three votes, and served as publicity director for the school his senior year. Both wrote for the Redcat newspaper and were selected by their peers as top personalities in their graduating class of 1963, where Ray was the senior class speaker at commencement.
Mary Lou went to Reedley College, getting a degree in dental assisting. She worked for a time as a dental hygienist and assistant to a securities broker. When their first of two daughters was born in 1968, Mary Lou became a full-time mother and homemaker as well as a volunteer for various community and school groups.
Ray went to Fresno State where me majored in journalism and served as editor of Fresno State’s Daily Collegian newspaper. He began his newspaper career while in college, working as editor of the Fowler Ensign and California Courier. He began working full time at The Fresno Bee about a year before he graduated from Fresno State in January 1968, starting as a reporter and rising to metro editor. He moved to Sacramento in 1982 to assume administrative positions at The Sacramento Bee. He came back to Fresno in 1986 to become general manager of The Bee, and then returned to Sacramento in 1993 to join the corporate staff of McClatchy Newspapers, the parent company of The Bee newspapers. He returned to Fresno again in 2001 to become publisher of The Bee until he retired in 2008. Ray has been active in various non-profit organizations in the community. He has served on the board of governors of the Fresno State Foundation since 2003 and currently is the board chair.
The Steeles live in Clovis. They have two daughters, both of whom were graduated from colleges in the California State University system, and five grandchildren who live in Clovis and Fresno.
We have always had an affection and appreciation for Fowler. Growing up in a small town provided many opportunities to make lasting friends. The high school was – and is – a great size. It is small enough to allow a student to get special attention and participate in so many activities but large enough to attract quality teachers who have a passion for kids and challenge them to think and succeed. Consider this: Among Fowler High graduates are a California Supreme Court justice, a former mayor of Houston, a former national drug czar, a money manager of multi-millions of dollars, and a police chief of a major metropolitan city.
The quality of the students who come from Fowler High is amazing. It’s a legacy worth honoring and helping to endure. We’re hopeful students who are awarded this scholarship will continue the tradition of excellence in the pursuit of their careers and dreams and make a difference.