The family of Ben Lauren, a Northern Michigan University alumnus who was tragically killed in the line of duty as a volunteer firefighter at age 23, has established an endowed scholarship in his memory to support NMU mechanical engineering technology students. Lauren graduated from the program in 2018.
“Ben loved the education he received at Northern,” said his dad, Ron, who earned a financial management degree from NMU in 1997. “All of the professors were helpful and loved having him in class. Ben loved the department, too. Before he even graduated, he had a job at Verso paper in Escanaba. He started there on the Monday after commencement. We figured this scholarship was a good way to give back and keep his legacy going.”
“Ben was dedicated to helping others and determined to pay for his education,” said his mom, Carla. “During his years at NMU, he was either working, studying or at the Forsyth Fire Hall. He had positive interactions with his engineering instructors and often commented that he viewed them as friends and could contact them even after graduation. The only times he ever skipped class were due to work or for a fire call. He would text his instructors and let them know of his absence. It is the assistance of others that alleviates our pain over losing Ben.”
Lauren was a third-generation volunteer firefighter for Forsyth Township. He joined the department as a cadet at age 14, was certified as a firefighter at 18 and became a captain at 22. When the fire pager would sound for a call, Lauren was known for excitedly proclaiming that he was “born for this.” On March 13, 2020, he and others were dispatched to a structure fire at a duplex. A floor collapsed while he was inside and he died at the scene.
Lauren is also survived by two younger siblings: brother Levi, a 2021 NMU nursing graduate; and sister Tori, who joined the Forsyth Township Fire Department three years ago. His parents channeled their grief into doing good works on behalf of others by establishing a foundation in Ben's name to help students pursuing higher education. The foundation contributed funds to create the Ben Lauren Scholarship at NMU.
"Ben had a huge effect on the faculty, staff and students during his time at Northern,” said Mike Rudisill of NMU's engineering technology program. “He was always a positive influence who never failed to project an optimistic attitude. With this scholarship, generously donated by his family, his inspirational influence will continue to affect future students as he did with his contemporaries, making their time at NMU a more positive experience and a little less stressful. Ben's legacy will continue within the department.”
Carla added, “If we can make somebody's life a little easier, then we know that Ben's smile and values are carried on. Our hope is to allow other dedicated and determined students to succeed in their educational goals.”
The Ben Lauren Memorial Foundation also provides monetary support and grants to local youth livestock and 4-H programs, as well as first responders. It recently donated a thermal imaging camera to the Marquette County Rescue 131 team. The camera is capable of detecting fallen firefighters and victims in house fires. It will also be able to detect hot spots or sources of a fire, which Ron said is crucial to saving more lives.
For information on NMU scholarships and giving opportunities, visit foundation.nmu.edu.