MANATEE -- Mark Souders, the highly respected Bradenton fire chief who died suddenly of a heart attack at age 55 in 2011, is being remembered with a scholarship in his name at State College of Florida through SCF Foundation Inc.
Souders had an impact well beyond the Bradenton Fire Department, serving as past president of the Florida Fire Chiefs' Association.
He helped shape generations of first-responders as director of the SCF Associate in Science in Fire Science Technology program. Souders also played a key role in developing new academic programs at SCF, including the Bachelor of Applied Science in Public Safety Administration and B.A.S. in Homeland Security.
Among those who were inspired by Souders was Tim Hyden, training and safety officer for the East Manatee Fire Rescue District.
"He was a tremendous resource. He answered so many questions and provided so much guidance for me and many others," Hyden said Tuesday.
Hyden, selected SCF's Outstanding Baccalaureate Graduate for spring commencement, donated his $1,500 award winnings plus $500 of his own money to start the Fire Chief Mark Souders Memorial Scholarship.
"Mark's name came imme
diately to mind when I was trying to decide what to do with the money," Hyden said. "You get to a point in your career where you want to give something back."
Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston warmly greeted the news.
"I think that is terrific. Mark was my first fire chief, and he was also a very good friend," Poston said. "People loved Mark and they miss him to this day.
"When we had the five hurricanes in one year, we spent a lot of time together. The fire department was accredited under Mark. This is a great tribute to him," Poston said.
David Ezell, assistant fire chief, said Souders' career was dedicated to improving education for the fire service community.
"I can't think of a better way to pay tribute to the legacy that he left behind. Ultimately we would like to have a sustainable scholarship program in perpetuity," Ezell said.
To contribute to the Fire Chief Mark Souders Memorial Scholarship, tax-deductible gifts may be mailed to Allison Nash, The State College of Florida Foundation Inc., P.O. Box 1849, Bradenton FL 34206.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, may be contacted at 941-745-7053. ww or on Twitter @jajones1.