Family’s Struggle Inspires Scholarship


Ellwood ("Woody") and Barb Filer (honorary alumna ’10) always knew the importance of higher education, even though neither attended college.

For years, the Frostburg couple planned and saved for their sons, Kevin ’04 and Dr. Daniel ("Danny") '04/M'06/M'08, to get their college degrees. Then, just as both boys were ready to attend Frostburg State University, their plans fell apart. Woody lost his job with a local coal company after nearly 30 years, and Barb was let go from her position as an administrative assistant at Kelly Springfield Tire Company after 26 years.

Filer Family Photo by Katie Kline

"It was the worst time in our lives for this to be happening to us," said Barb. She and her husband weren't about to give up on their dreams of seeing their sons attend college. "For our boys, it was never 'if' you go to college, but 'when' you go to college."

Woody echoed his wife. "You don't need a college degree in life. But it's a lot harder to achieve your goals without one."

Being faced with sudden misfortune, Woody and Barb searched out multiple part-time jobs to cover the boys' tuition. Woody took on several construction and mechanic gigs and Barb found part-time work in the FSU Bookstore and as an assistant in the Admissions and Financial Aid offices.

“One of the biggest reasons we did this is that we don't want families to work two and three jobs like we did.”

The memory of that struggle to pay tuition inspired the couple to create the Filer Family Scholarship through the FSU Foundation, Inc. The award is presented to residents of the Frostburg area who are graduates of Mountain Ridge or Bishop Walsh high schools and show financial need.

"One of the biggest reasons we did this is that we don't want families to work two and three jobs like we did," said Barb, who later secured a full-time position in FSU's Office of Alumni Affairs, where she witnessed firsthand how scholarships can assist students in need.

The college was always a "neighbor" of the Filer family, who lives near the Frostburg pool and Armory. Growing up, their sons took swimming lessons on campus and attended Camp Bobcat during the summers.

Kevin was the first to enroll at FSU in the education program and, despite his parent's sacrifice, dropped out after only a few weeks. "Didn't take long to realize that wasn't for me," Kevin admitted.

When Woody and Barb forced him to get a full-time fast-food job, Kevin quickly begged to go back to college and eventually earned his criminal justice degree. "It didn't take a week. I ended up registering again and graduating on the six-year plan – with a lot of my brother's help in mostly all of my classes."

Kevin's now married and has worked as a federal police officer with the U.S. Secret Service for the past 16 years, which is much better than flipping burgers.

"This memory will stick with me forever, and I am always reminded when I drive through the campus or come home for a weekend," he said.

Danny, on the other hand, took full advantage of FSU's offerings, obtaining a bachelor's degree in history, and Master of Education and Master of Business Administration degrees. He later earned his Doctor of Education degree from West Virginia University. Danny works as a research coordinator for the federal government and has his office at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences Appalachian Lab on the Frostburg campus. He's also married and serves as an adjunct professor for the FSU History and Philosophy departments.

"FSU was a smart, inexpensive decision for us. I have grown to value education in my life, and I truly believe the faculty and staff at Frostburg are changing lives as they did mine," Danny said. "The sacrifice my parents made for Kevin and me to attend college at FSU is the greatest gift they have provided for us. Both of us owe our success to what we 'learned and earned' at Frostburg."

When their "boys" came home for Christmas one year, Barb and Woody shared their vision for a scholarship, and they immediately agreed to make it a true family affair. "We are forever grateful for our parents' sacrifice, which is why we both contributed to the founding of the scholarship when Mom suggested the idea," Danny said.

"When this scholarship was created, we wanted it to be for students who didn't have the best GPA in high school and weren't wicked smart. That was me," Kevin added. "We wanted a scholarship that was aimed at those who wanted to stay home to get an education, but at the same time, had to really work for excellence in academics."

Woody and Barb are retired now. Woody moved on from Allegany County Roads in 2014 and Barb finally left FSU in 2016. The couple spends their days taking regular walks around the city of Frostburg, which includes a daily trek through the Frostburg campus.

Before Barb left FSU, her colleagues awarded her with an honorary degree, which was humbling for the mother who always held higher education in such high esteem.

"I was totally shocked. I never felt I deserved anything like that. I was just working to put my kids through school," Barb said. "I didn't do that or start this scholarship for the attention. We did this to make it easier on other families than it was for us."

To make a gift in support of the Filer Family Scholarship, call the FSU Foundation at 301-687-4068 or visit online at