Scholarship Program

Tom MorrisonPhoto of Jerry Wheeler

SDRA's Jerry Wheeler Scholarship program is designed to encourage and support students studying for a career in retailing. The scholarship program is named in honor of our former Executive Director, Jerry Wheeler, who started the program.

In 2017, SDRA awarded 12 Jerry Wheeler Scholarships totaling $10,400. Scholarships ranged in amounts from $500 to $1,600. The applicant who receives the top score from our Scholarship Committee also receives a $500 scholarship in memory of our Past President Tom Morrison of Rapid City, who died of ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) in June of 2015.   

From 1992 through 2017, we awarded 239 scholarships totaling over $160,700. 


Submit an application for the 2018-2019 Jerry Wheeler Scholarship!

How To Apply

  • Complete the application form by clicking on the button above (You can also submit a fillable pdf). The application deadline for 2018 is April 20.
  • Financial aid offices of South Dakota universities and vocational schools receive application forms in December.
  • Email SDRA to request a hard copy of the application.



To be eligible, applicant must be enrolled in or planning to enroll in a retail-related course of study at a technical school, college or university, or other trade school in the fall of the application year. Enrollment in an online program is acceptable if applicant meets other eligibility requirements. Internships do not qualify.

Examples of areas of study considered to be retail-related may include (but are not be limited to): Accounting, Agribusiness (this would be retail agribusiness, not operation of a farm or ranch), Apparel Merchandising, Auto Mechanics, Automotive Technology, Business Administration, Business Management, Collision Repair, Computer Science, Commercial Baking, Culinary Arts, Diesel Mechanics, Electrical Maintenance, Gemology, Heating/Ventilation, Hotel/Restaurant Management, Landscape Design, Pharmacy, Photography, Printing Industries, Refrigeration, Sales/Marketing Management, and Tourism Industry Management. (Note: this list is not all-inclusive).


Applicants must meet one of these requirements:

  • have graduated from a South Dakota high school -OR-
  • have earned a high school equivalency certificate (such as a GED) in South Dakota -OR-
  • plan to attend post secondary school in South Dakota


Applicant must desire a career in a retail-related field.


  • Applicant must have completed at least 24 credits from a qualifying college or university, or 12 credits from a qualifying tech school or certified professional training institute by September of the application year to be eligible. We are willing to consider full-time post secondary work experience in lieu of the post secondary education requirement. 
  • High school seniors are not eligible unless they have sufficient college or technical/trade school credits; documentation of these credits must be provided.


Students are eligible if they enroll in 12 or more credit hours at a post secondary school for the fall of the year the scholarship is awarded. 


Students enrolled in online studies are eligible if they meet other eligibility requirements.


Awards will not be based solely on financial need or grades.


Previous recipients are eligible to apply for the scholarship program.


Children and spouses of current members of the SDRA Scholarship Committee are not eligible for consideration.


Application and all accompanying materials must be postmarked or emailed to SDRA by April 20, 2018 to be eligible for consideration.



  1. Fill out the application (print legibly, or type). NOTE: You should receive a confirmation by email after submitting your application. If you don't receive a confirmation email, please email SDRA to verify that we received your application.
  2. Print or type out your goals, challenges and accomplishments -OR- provide this information via YouTube video, limit of 3 minutes (see page 3 of the application)
  3. Request a copy of your most recent grade transcript
  4. Obtain two letters of reference (at least one must be from a person who currently owns or manages a business)
  5. Submit application, written or YouTube essay, grade transcript, and letters of reference to SDRA by mail, email or fax by the deadline



  • Recipient announcement: Names of scholarship recipients will be announced in July.
  • Payment: All scholarships awarded will be paid directly to the school to be applied to tuition, after SDRA receives verification of enrollment.


What is considered a “retail or business related” course of study?
SDRA’s membership consists of a broad range of business types. Likewise, a broad range of business programs are eligible for the scholarship, including business administration, auto mechanics, computer science, culinary arts, gemology, heating/ventilation, pharmacy, photography, agribusiness, landscape design, printing industries, refrigeration, and more. Examples of fields of study which are NOT eligible: education/teaching, journalism, nursing, farming, ranching.

How can individuals apply for a scholarship?
Each December, applications are furnished to financial aid offices at South Dakota post secondary schools, and to instructors at post secondary schools.

Applications are also available:

  • from this website by mid December each year for the following school year
  • by contacting SDRA by phone (1-800-658-5545)
  • send an email to SDRA to request that an application be mailed to you

What other information must be supplied with the application?
Applicants must furnish a copy of their most recent grade transcript, and two letters of reference. At least one of the letters of reference must be from a retailer or other business person. Also be sure to include the essay information.

Who determines which students will receive the awards?
A committee of retailers appointed by the SDRA Board President reviews applications and selects the recipients.

How many scholarships are awarded?
The number of scholarships and the dollar amount awarded vary from year to year. For the 2016-2017 school year: 12 scholarships were awarded, ranging from $500 to $2,250. In 2017, 12 scholarships were awarded in amounts ranging from $500 to $1,600. The top scholarship recipient received an additional $500 from the Tom Morrison Scholarship.  

How are the SDRA Jerry Wheeler Scholarships funded?
The scholarships come from the South Dakota Retailers Association Education Trust Fund, a pool of funds established in 1991 by the SDRA Board of Directors. Each year, a portion of money from the fund is awarded to selected students studying for careers in retail-related fields.

Where does the Trust Fund money come from?
The fund was started with seed money from the Association. The trust fund has continued to grow with donations, tax-deductible memorial contributions, bequests, and money set aside by the Association.

Can I make a tax deductible contribution to the fund in memory of a colleague or family member?
Yes. When contributions are made as a memorial to the scholarship fund, the family of the deceased is notified of the fact that a specific person made a contribution. We will notify the family of the amount only if the donor asks that we do so.

In addition, SDRA’s Board of Directors has voted to match any amounts given to the trust fund as a memorial - so your contribution will actually be doubled.

To make a contribution fill out this form and mail to: SDRA Education Trust Fund, PO Box 638, Pierre, SD 57501.

Why should I be interested in contributing to the SDRA Education Trust Fund?
It is important for business people to be involved in education, to make sure that the employees and business owners of the future are work-ready.

It is also essential to impress on young people the value of a career in retailing. One way to do that is to make scholarships available. The fact that retailers are willing to provide scholarships certainly makes an impression on students and the academic community that South Dakota’s retail industry is serious about fostering the educational principles involved in retailing.