Bonaminio family honors son with fund to help La Sierra students

Ryan Bonaminio

Aug. 12, 2011
By Darla Martin Tucker

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – ( Next May, when La Sierra University hands out its annual allotment of scholarships, officials plan to issue first awards from new funds set up this year. One such fund, recently established, aims to help exemplary criminal justice students reach graduation and in so doing, honor the life of a Riverside police officer who died in the line of duty.

On May 19, during a ceremony at La Sierra’s criminal justice offices, university officials and Joe and Geraldine Bonaminio signed agreements to create the Ryan Bonaminio Scholarship Fund in honor of the Bonaminio's son.  The award is named for the 27-year-old officer who was shot to death on Nov. 7, 2010 when he ran after a suspect through Riverside’s Fairmount Park. According to news reports, the suspect took off on foot into the park after Bonaminio pulled him over as a suspect in a hit-and-run accident involving a stolen truck. A man suspected to be the assailant was arrested two days later and has been charged with the killing.

Bonaminio, who served two tours of duty in Iraq, was a decorated military police officer with the U.S. Army Reserves. He served eight years and earned the rank of sergeant. During his military career he received numerous awards including the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Army Reserve Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. He was known for his commitment to a field for which he had experienced a deep calling since he was a child.

Ryan’s scholarship fund carries with it the young police officer’s legacy, a life story that will help La Sierra criminal justice students “…understand what professionalism, integrity, bravery, self-sacrifice and community is all about,” said Todd Bell, part of the criminal justice program at La Sierra. “What this scholarship means is that students who need financial help meeting their college expenses will be provided the necessary assistance. Many of our students are the first in their families to attend college and many times the families have limited means. This fund will help bridge the gap.”

“Our desire is to see these kids complete their education and if Ryan’s scholarship fund can help them along the way, that would be great. It would mean a lot to us,” said Joe Bonaminio. “We just want people to remember Ryan for what he did and who he was. He was a part of this community as a student, and he became a part of this community as a peace officer.”

Joe Bonaminio recalled his son’s lifelong interest in law enforcement and the dedication with which he tackled his job. “He would show up two hours before roll call, making sure everything was in its place. He would stay over to complete reports. He was a fanatic about details. …That was his passion since he was a toddler. That’s all he ever wanted to do. If a few of those kids at that school had that passion, it would put a smile on his face from ear to ear,” Bonaminio said.

Joseph and Geraldine Bonaminio established a scholarship fund in honor of their son, Ryan

The Ryan Bonaminio Scholarship Fund will be awarded to criminal justice majors who have demonstrated a financial need, who have a grade point average of at least 2.75 or above at the time of the award, who possess a strong work ethic, positive attitude and integrity.

Including newly established funds, La Sierra University currently administers 129 scholarships, awards and prizes. At its yearly scholarship recognition luncheon this May, the university awarded about 100 scholarships to more than 160 recipients. The total amount given exceeded $140,000, about the same amount as last year’s award pool. Scholarships ranged from $100 to $12,000 with some larger awards divided between recipients. Some scholarships may also be awarded each year during the summer and fall.

Most scholarship funds are endowed. The amount of scholarships given out in 2012 may increase as the stock market strengthens as awards are made from income earned on invested funds, said Carol Bradfield, interim vice president for advancement.

This coming school year officials may offer awards from the Bonaminio fund and other newly established scholarships including the following: The La Sierra University Criminal Justice Program Scholarship Fund, an annual scholarship created by criminal justice program organizers; the Cecil H. and Carol Jones Memorial Scholarship, an endowed fund; the Caribbean SOUP scholarship; and the Harold and Ruth Fagal Scholarship.

La Sierra’s Advancement office puts out a call for scholarship applicants in February through student email blasts, posters, through announcements at university worships and through Student Financial Services. Applicants are asked to list their activities, awards, achievements and hobbies and write an essay that describes why they believe they should receive an award. Advancement officials enter the information into a database, which runs comparisons against all scholarships for which the applicants are eligible.

For many students, scholarships are a godsend and necessary for staying in school. Nichole Bartlett was one of two students to receive the Derrill E. Yaeger Memorial Scholarship this May, a new award offered through the School of Business. Bartlett worked many hours a week in a court reporting office to help pay tuition and faces the challenge of funding a law degree in the future. “I love La Sierra,” she wrote in her essay, “but …it has been a huge struggle for me to stay here.” She cited her high grade point average and multiple dean’s list enrollments as evidence of her academic dedication. “The scholarship would be going to someone who could really use it,” she said.

Nilmini Pang, a pre-pharmacy major, was among four students to receive a scholarship from The Community Foundation Serving Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. Pang's parents immigrated to the States “looking for a better life, but instead they’re pouring a good portion of their money into me. …My parents are holding off buying a house in order for me to get an Adventist education. They want me to grow spiritually as well as mentally,” she wrote.

“This is why I’m hoping for some scholarships next year. I’m hoping it will lessen the financial burden on my parents.”

Click here to see more photos from this event.


PR Contact: Larry Becker

Executive Director of University Relations

La Sierra University

Riverside, California

951.785.2460 (voice)

  • Last update on  May 23, 2012