Military challenge remembers Winona State student

Funds raised go to scholarship in Derek Bute's honor

It’s been nearly three months since a train accident that resulted in the death of Winona State student Derek Bute near campus.

 But an event held Sunday afternoon looked to honor his memory.

 It was a test of endurance, strength, and toughness, but the military-style challenge was also a way for organizers to raise money for a scholarship in Bute’s honor.

 “The reason we pulled this scholarship together was, after he died, I did a lot of thinking. He was really passionate about his education, he was excited about learning,” said Shellie Nelson, an aunt of Derek’s who also worked at Winona State.

 Besides a thirst for learning, Bute served his country in the military, and loved working to serve others.

 “There was a tornado back in our area a few years ago and he was just home from deployment, and he said, ‘Dad, you got a chainsaw, let’s go,'” said Michael Bute, Derek’s father.

 “It made your day better, just him being around, how he was, how hard working he was,” said William Bomchill, student and friend of Derek’s.

 Among his many passions was exercise, which is why organizers felt the challenge was the best way to remember Derek. While the course may have been challenging, it’s something Derek wouldn’t have any other way.

 “He would like it a lot. He always liked to push himself physically,” said Bomchill.

 “He would think this was awesome, he’d be right in the middle of it,” said Michael Bute.

 “He’d be the first one starting and the first one at the finish line,” said Diane Thoms, Derek’s mother.

 Organizers said the support from Winona State’s campus community is what keeps event the event alive.

 “The students have said they would hope someone would do this for them,” said Nelson.

 While he may not be here in person, family and friends said the event will keep his memory alive.

 “I think it’s important that we take the grief and turn it in to something positive,” said Nelson “So we wanted to celebrate and we created this scholarship.”

 “I just hope our son was an inspiration to the young people he was around,” said Michael. “That’s the best thing we can hope for is that he inspired others.”

Organizers hope to continue the event for at least three to five years to raise enough money for the scholarships that will be continued by the university’s endowment.