Paul Aukstolis, center, is presented the Auburn Marine Corps Scholarship by Billy Stelpflug family members at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Oct. 5. They include Christy Williford (sister), Peggy Stelpflug (mother), Caleb Pipes (Marine Corps League Commandant) and Major Ret. Jeffrey Dyal (Marine Corps League member and former Auburn NROTC Marine Officer Instructor).
Paul Aukstolis was proud to receive the Auburn Marine Corps League Scholarship, but the junior Harbert College finance major said the honor should instead reflect the fallen Marine the scholarship is named after.
That man was Lance Cpl. Billy Stelpflug, an Auburn-area Marine who was one of 240 servicemen killed Oct. 23, 1983, during a Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, Lebanon.
“It (the scholarship) means a lot to me, not necessarily for the financial reasons,” said Aukstolis, who accepted a check, presented by members of the Stelpflug family, for $1,500 on the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium prior to Auburn’s Oct. 5 game against Mississippi.
“It means more to me that I’m even associated with something of this magnitude – a fallen Marine 30 years ago. This is in honor of him dying for his country. It’s more important to me for us to remember that rather than remember the scholarship and the financial support I’m receiving from the scholarship. It (the scholarship) was a complete surprise.”
The scholarship was awarded to Aukstolis in recognition of his academic excellence, physical fitness and leadership accomplishments.
Aukstolis, a native of St. Charles, Ill., is currently a Midshipman on a commissioning path to becoming a Marine Corps officer and is on track to earn the rank of Second Lt. in 2015.
“While I’m young I want to do something that would distinguish myself from others,” he said in regard to joining the Marine Corps. “I think the Marine Corps is the best way to do that. They pride themselves in being different, being the best, fighting wars and winning wars. I can go work for other corporations later in my life.”
Aukstolis said he might consider a career in the financial industry down the line, “hopefully in a leadership or management position.”
What has a pathway toward military service taught the finance major?
“The big thing is work ethic,” he replied. “Coming out of high school you don’t have that work ethic even though I thought I did. I succeeded in high school. I did well. But you come here and it’s a whole different ball game. Having the responsibilities of school and then the discipline and all the extra commitment required through the ROTC program really instills that work ethic.”