Scholarship honors fallen soldier

The Portland Trail Blazers will make a donation of $40,000 to help start a Portland State scholarship fund in honor of Justin Eyerly, an Oregon National Guard soldier and former PSU art student killed in Iraq June 4, 2004.

Sgt. Eyerly, 23, who called Salem, Ore., his hometown, was one of three to become the first Oregon National Guardsmen to die in Iraq. The others were 1st Lt. Erik McCrae, 25, and Spc. Justin Linden, 23, both of Portland. They were among victims of a roadside bomb attack.

The donation was announced by Trail Blazers President Steve Patterson. Besides his studies at PSU, Eyerly was a graphic design intern with the Trail Blazers.

Patterson said the Blazers will help grow the scholarship fund over the next three years by offering a scoreboard message tie-in. Individuals wishing to put up a greeting on the scoreboard at a game can do so by making a donation to the Eyerly fund, which will be matched dollar for dollar by the Trail Blazers.

Daniel A. Wasil, director of development for the School of Fine & Performing Arts, said the first scholarship will be awarded to a sophomore art student some time late this year, to be used next fall.

Funding for the first year of the scholarship will be provided by the School of Fine & Performing Arts, with future years being funded in part by the Trail Blazers’ donation and in part through other donations.

In addition to receiving the contributed funds, recipients of the scholarship will receive an annual internship position with the Blazers.

"He was a good kid," Wasil recalled of Eyerly. "He was looking forward to the future." He recalled Eyerly as having a special interest in graphic design. The exact amount of the first scholarship is yet to be determined, Wasil said.

Susan Agre-Kippenhan, chair of PSU’s Department of Art, said, "Like a lot of his peers developing their skills here at PSU, Justin worked in a variety of media and applied himself in the community."

The Trail Blazers originally hired Eyerly as a Rose Quarter security agent in July 2002. In the summer of 2003 he began working as an intern with the Trail Blazers’ internet marketing department, where he assisted in designing and creating web site content.

Eyerly was putting himself through college by working for the Trail Blazers and serving in the National Guard. A Trail Blazer statement at the time of his death said, "While in the internet marketing department, Justin was known for his creativity and professionalism. He was a talented and dedicated individual who gave 100 percent effort every day."

A statement at the time of his death gave the following details: Eyerly died in Baghdad, Iraq, when individuals using improvised explosive devices and rocket-propelled grenades attacked his convoy. He was assigned to the Army National Guard’s 2nd battalion, 162nd infantry, Cottage Grove, Oregon."

While attending Portland State, Eyerly had his own web site that revealed much of his own history and interests. Born in Salem, he lived in New York and New Jersey for a few years before moving back to Oregon. He then lived in the Los Angeles area for a while before moving back to Oregon at age 12. He finished high school in Washington State.

Eyerly enlisted in the National Guard during his first term in college at Oregon State University, in his words, "to help pay for school on my own and to fulfill a childhood dream."

Declaring himself a musician as well as an artist, his ultimate dream after graduating was to work in the music industry in Los Angeles. He wanted to "do everything from studio managing, engineering, producing, recording to programming."

He considered himself totally dedicated to modern technology, saying, "I use my computer for just about everything in my apartment."

"I also use my computer as a starting point for all of my art work, too. As a graphic design major, I am forced to be creating new works of art on a regular basis, so I find myself pretty in tune with my artistic side, especially in front of my computer."

About 400 mourners gathered in the Memorial Coliseum courtyard near the Rose Garden arena to remember Eyerly. He was buried in a private ceremony in Portland.

Contributions to the Eyerly Scholarship Fund may be sent to the School of Fine and Performing Arts, P.O. Box 751, Portland, OR, 97207-0751.