Merced County Office of Education

Virginia Smith Scholarship

​​​​​​​​​​​​Virginia Smith left Merced when she was a young teen but retained strong ties and pleasant memories of her home town. Memories so enduring that in her Will, she provided for the formation of the Virginia Smith Trust with the intent to offer scholarships to deserving, needy and worthy students who attended high schools in the City of Merced.  

​Virginia Smith bequeathed her 7000 acre estate to the Merced County Board of Education and established a trust that would provide college scholarships to area youth. The Merced County Board of Education as Trustee leased the land for 27 years and used the earnings from rent for awarding scholarships. Beginning in 1995, the Trust operated the Merced Hills Golf Club on 197 acres of the land.

The Virginia Smith Trust initially offered the University of California 2,000 acres of its 7,000 acres. The University of California was initially going to locate the new campus to the north, near where the old barn still stands. Governor Gray Davis said he would get the funds for initial development if the campus would open within a short period of time. The University of California system moved their initial construction to the golf course because the land had a 404 permit. In this process, the bonds which financed the golf course were paid off. The remaining Trust land, with the exception of the land under the UCLC, LLC, was used for environmental litigation. The Trust property went from 7,000 acres to the present half of the property under the UCLC, LLC.

The former golf course site is now the tenth campus of the University of California system. The University of California, Merced, opened for classes on September 6, 2005.

The Trust is still in the land business, as the Trustees have joined with the UC Merced in development of 1,240 acres immediately south of the UC Merced campus. Planning is about to begin for the community, which may provide shops, housing, schools, a future business park and more. Earnings from the development will fund future Virginia Smith Scholarships.

 ​The 2023-24 VST Scholarship Application Deadline is ​March 2, 2023.

VST Scholarship Brochure

2023-24 VST Scholarship Application (fillable)​​

For more information, please contact:

​Yolanda Campos
Smith Family Scholarships Office
Merced County Office of Education
Phone: (209) 381-6604

Email: VirginiaSmith