Local Connection to Scholarship, Education, Marching Band and the Rose Bowl

Drum major with arm stretched out in front of him with Disney castle in background.
Rodney Weir was the Michigan Marching Band drum
major in 1992.

Berrien Community Foundation scholarship donor and Coloma High School graduate, Dr. Rodney Weir looks back on his time as the drum major of the University of Michigan Marching Band ahead of the university’s return to the Rose Bowl Game this year. 

Dr. Weir led the University of Michigan Marching Band in the 1992 Rose Bowl Game and his time in band inspired him to start the Rodney Weir Marching Band Scholarship at Berrien Community Foundation. 

While Dr. Weir is reflecting back on his time at the Rose Bowl Game, BCF scholarship recipient Sophia Bomar of Bridgman is looking forward to her time marching with the Michigan Marching Band in this year’s events in Pasadena, California.

“The theme of this year’s Rose Parade is Celebrating a World of Music. It will be a day to appreciate beautiful music, make new friends, and learn about other cultures,” said Weir who is an assistant professor in the Western Michigan University Department of Physical Therapy. “Participating in band has been central to my success and opportunities. Band instills the importance of teamwork and collaboration, which has direct ties to my work in health care and physical therapy.”

Seeing the educational value of participating in marching band and subsequently the Rose Bowl Game activities, Dr. Weir started the Rodney Weir Marching Band Scholarship at the Berrien Community Foundation. His goal is to encourage high school band members from Berrien County to participate in marching band in college. The fully endowed scholarship was first awarded in 2017, and recipients have gone on to participate in the Michigan Marching Band and WMU’s Bronco Marching Band. The scholarship is open to all Berrien County students who participated in marching band in high school and intend to continue their band participation at the college level.

Three people smiling.
Sophia Bomar, center, poses with her
​​​parents Jennifer and Joe Bomar prior to
a football game this season at the
University of Michigan.

While in high school Sophia Bomar was a member of Berrien Community Foundation’s T.E.A.M. (Teens Exhibiting Able Minds), the foundation’s youth advisory committee. She went on to receive Berrien Community Foundation’s Carole A. Oehlhaffen Youth in Philanthropy Scholarship in 2022. She is using this scholarship to support her education at the University of Michigan and is a member of the Michigan Marching Band.

“I am most excited about marching in the Rose Parade,” Sophia said. “Before I even knew anything about Michigan football, I remember watching the Rose Parade on television and I have always loved it. I am so grateful to have received the support from BCF, not just the scholarship but from everyone at BCF and Ms. Oehlhaffen. Having this support was a big reason why I was able to go to a big school like the University of Michigan and be in the band.”

BCF President Lisa Cripps-Downey loves to see foundation scholarships at work. “It’s very exciting to see education at work through our donors like Dr. Weir and our scholars like Sophia. The foundation is thrilled for its members to be a part of the ongoing traditions of the Tournament of Roses and the values it represents.”

Inspired by the positive benefits and the educational value of marching band, Weir has partnered with Dr. Trey Harris, Director of Western Michigan University Bronco Marching Band. Dr. Harris also values the education and experience of participating in the Tournament of Roses as a Graduate Teaching Assistant for the Florida State University Chiefs Marching Band in 2015. The two are working on a research project with the Western Michigan Bronco Marching Band, investigating the impact of marching band participation on wellness and physical fitness. They both anticipate the study will definitively show the health benefits of band participation.