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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 2, 2006
Scholarship Established in Cougar Football Player's Name
Mike Sandnes was an exceptional student athlete, a natural leader and an inspiration to those whose lives he touched. Above all else, he was a determined yet compassionate person, a loving son, and a vibrant young man whose life was just beginning to blossom when cancer claimed him at 21.
Twenty-seven years after they buried their son, Richard and Marian Sandnes have established a scholarship in Mike's name at College of the Canyons.
Richard Sandnes readily acknowledges that they could not have afforded such a tribute at the time of Mike's death. But times change, and Richard is now a successful businessman. Two years before Mike died, Richard launched Mr. Stax Inc., a Valencia company that has grown and prospered to the point where it now operates 46 IHOP restaurants in six states from coast to coast.
"Marian and I always wanted to do something for Mike and the college," he said. "We thought about it for many years, and we've reached a point in our lives where we can honor Mike and help others in the process. We're confident this will help many College of the Canyons students in the future."
The Santa Clarita couple have donated $100,000 to the College of the Canyons Foundation to create the Michael "Mike" Sandnes Memorial Scholarship, an endowed scholarship fund that will live on in their son's name in perpetuity.
Mike Sandnes attended College of the Canyons from 1975 to 1977, maintaining good grades while excelling on the football field in his position as a defensive safety. His first year out with the Cougars was 1975, a distinguished year for both Mike and the fledgling football program. It was the team's first championship season, and Mike was named to the All Western States Conference Team.
He was offered a scholarship to the University of Washington but became ill and was diagnosed with cancer shortly after graduating from College of Canyons. He died March 20, 1979.
"There are people that you meet and never forget because they add something to your own life. Mike is like that," then-Football Head Coach Larry Reisbig said as he delivered Mike's eulogy.
"I would like to tell you how Mike has truly added something to my life and the lives of so many young men who have known him and heard about him," Reisbig said. "Mike had a dedication to excellence. He always wanted to be the best he could be at everything he did. And yet he had a compassion and understanding for those who were searching and striving for this same dedication. This above all else made Mike the leader he was."
Mike's short but remarkable life so affected Reisbig and others at the college that the Mike Sandnes Award for Most Inspirational Player was created in 1978, to be awarded annually to the football player who best shared Mike's inspirational excellence.
"Mike stands for everything I have spent my life trying to teach my young men," Reisbig said. "Mike taught us all through example. That is why I wanted to honor the one Cougar each year who is the most like Mike -- a leader, an inspiration, a friend and a teammate."
The award was designed to be the highest honor anyone on the football team could achieve, Reisbig said, adding, "It is a tribute to Mike's parents that they nurtured and developed all the wonderful qualities that made Mike the person he was."
As fate would have it, the college's football program was dropped several years later. Although it was revived in 1998, some 17 years later under a new college administration and football coach, the intervening years obscured the memory of that most inspirational player award.
The recognition has now been restored and will be given to the Cougar player who best exemplifies the inspirational traits of Mike Sandnes, said present-day Football Head Coach Chuck Lyon, who acknowledged that the award from the previous football program was simply forgotten.
"We are thrilled that students will benefit from the generosity and foresight of Richard and Marian Sandnes," Superintendent-President Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook said. "Their amazing tribute to their son will ensure that hundreds more students will benefit for years to come.
"And, I am pleased that we can resurrect the Mike Sandnes Award for Most Inspirational Player," Van Hook said. "It means a lot to Richard and Marian, their son's memory, and to all of us. I can't think of a more appropriate person for this award to be named after."
The merit-based scholarships for fees and books will require candidates to be full-time students maintaining a minimum 3.0 GPA while enrolled in physical education programs and athletics.
"We hope this scholarship will be meaningful and help quite a few students down the road," Richard Sandnes added.
The scholarship funds will come from accrued interest earned from the initial $100,000 donation. Actual scholarship amounts have yet to be determined. The scholarship should be available in about 12 months. Prospective candidates will be able to apply at the college's Financial Aid Office.