Treating Students Like Family

Living expenses are often one of the toughest financial obstacles for a medical student to overcome. Luckily for Kalli Fautsch, a fourth-year UND medical student, these expenses were never a source of stress thanks to a unique family of donors.  

When Kalli arrived at UND for medical school, she applied for the Buck Zahradka MD Memorial Scholarship. She wrote an essay about the life of Buck, a UND medical student who passed away in a tragic boat accident in 1998. He had just finished his degree and was in his first year of family medicine residency. Buck's family remembers him as someone who aimed to understand others and serve in ways that made them feel heard and appreciated.

Buck Zahradka

Before becoming a family physician, Buck Zahradka worked as a mechanic, plumber, sheet metal and concrete worker, and an electrician. 

Buck Zahradka Memorial Tree

A memorial tree stands tall outside of Columbia Hall to honor the lives of Buck Zahradka and Craig Cameron who both lost their lives in the fatal boat accident.  

After learning his story, Kalli felt inspired to serve others in similar ways. “I was amazed at how beloved he was by family and friends, and I could tell that he left a lasting impact on those who knew him,” Kalli said. 

To her surprise, Kalli was chosen for the scholarship. An even bigger surprise was that the Zahradka family offers the recipient a rent-free, furnished apartment only a few blocks away from campus. “Having a beautiful place to live with caring neighbors helped me make the most of my first year at UND,” Kalli said. 

Kalli Fautsch

Kalli Fautsch shares the passion that Buck Zahradka had for relating to people and helping them in both the hardest and the best times of their lives. 

While living in the apartment, Kalli got to know some members of the Zahradka family, including Buck’s mother Shirley, who lived in the same complex. They would often have coffee together and tend Shirley’s beautiful gardens. According to Kalli, Shirley treated medical students like family and would invite them over for meals and study breaks. When Shirley passed away in 2021, Kalli attended her memorial service and was able to share her gratitude with the Zahradka family.

When Kalli’s apartment lease was about to end, she contacted Sandy Zahradka, Buck’s sister and the owner of the property, to see if other units were available and offered to start paying rent. Sandy agreed with a slight change to the proposal: Kalli’s rent payments would go directly to the family endowment in Buck’s honor. Kalli was happy to oblige. 

“Kalli always took great care of the apartment and was a great resident for us, so we were happy to let her stay as she studies to become a great doctor,” Sandy said. 

Sandy and her siblings continue to honor their beloved brother through the Buck Zahradka MD Memorial Scholarship. The entire family contributes to the endowment, increasing the impact on students and building connections with them as they move on to promising careers.

Zahradka Siblings

Dale, Bill, Sandy, and Lonnie Zahradka (siblings of Buck) have all continued to grow Buck's endowment every year and build connections with UND medical students. 

Their gift has allowed me to focus on becoming the best physician I can be so that I can eventually give back to all who believed in me. They are investing in my dream.Kalli Fautsch

The recipients show their gratitude for financial support and the separate housing opportunity every year through thank you letters and personal communication with the family. They serve as a reminder that the family is making a real impact on the future of UND medical students. 

“Having the support of the Zahradka family has been life changing. Their gift has allowed me to focus on becoming the best physician I can be so that I can eventually give back to all who believed in me. They are investing in my dream,” Kalli said.  

Kalli begins fourth year of medical school this fall when she will start interviewing for residency and finish her clinicals in North Dakota. After seeing her rent payments turn into contributions to the family scholarship, she plans to keep giving back and pay it forward to support students like herself. She credits the Zahradka family for her increased interest in serving others:

“I would not be where I am today without their support. They have kept Buck’s legacy alive by turning a tragedy into an incredible opportunity to give back and change the lives of students.”


Every donor has a story of "why" they decided to pay it forward and help UND students succeed. We'd love to hear yours!