A good month for big gifts

Gateway Technical College President Bryan Albrecht (right) thanks Michael Kopper and Michelle Whitfield for their $2.85 gift, the single largest donation to the college. (Photo: GTC)

In terms of big donations, March has been a good month for some community colleges.

Last Wednesday, Monroe Community College (MCC) in New York announced that the Wegman Family Charitable Foundation would invest $3 million to help fight hunger at the college.

The next day, Wisconsin’s Gateway Technical College said it would receive a $2.85 million private donation to, in part, fund scholarships for students in engineering and manufacturing-related programs. (Less than a month ago, the college received a $1.2 million bequest toward a student emergency fund, manufacturing program support and the college’s Promise program.)

Earlier this month, Arapahoe Community College in Colorado received a gift of up to $10 million from the Sturm Family Foundation — the largest in the history of the 13-institution Colorado Community College System — to develop a unique collaborative campus that includes K-12, colleges and the workforce.

Also in March, Northwest Florida State College announced that it would expand career education thanks to a $1.5 million commitment from the Walton County Board of County Commissioners. The county board committed $1.5 million to a $5.25 million Walton Works project that will establish a Center of Excellence for workforce training at the college’s Chautauqua Center.

February also was pretty good for several community colleges. Laramie County Community College last month received an estate gift of $2.4 million from long-time Cheyenne resident Lois C. Mottonen to fund new scholarships and improve programs. In Oklahoma, Tulsa Community College’s (TCC) fundraising campaign received a $1 million gift from the Hardesty Family Foundation. It will help TCC move forward with plans for a student success center on its West Campus.

Tackling student hunger

Monroe Community College will use the $3 million gift from the Wegman foundation to tackle student hunger and strengthen support services. The college will focus funds on assisting low-income MCC students — those earning less than $25,000 a year — struggling to afford food, consistent housing and other basic needs on their way to graduation with food and emergency scholarships, as well as helping students stay on track toward completion.

“Helping Monroe Community College students overcome hunger and other barriers to higher education will lead to more graduates working in and contributing to Rochester’s economy,” Danny Wegman, Wegman Family Charitable Foundation president and chairman of the board, said in a press release.

(From left) Gretchen Wood, MCC Foundation executive director and chief advancement officer; Danny Wegman, president and chair of the Wegman Family Charitable Foundation; MCC alumna Ayriona Winston; and MCC President Anne Kress. (Photo: MCC)

In 2016, MCC’s participation in the Wisconsin HOPE Lab study of community college students showed that food and housing insecurity threatens students’ abilities to start college and earn degrees, according to the college. More than half of the MCC students who participated in the study said they cut meal sizes or skipped meals altogether because they did not have enough money for food.

“On a daily basis, too many MCC students are choosing between pursuing higher education and eating or feeding their families,” said MCC President Anne Kress, who also co-chairs the State University of New York’s Food Insecurity Task Force.

The gift is the latest major gift in support of the MCC Foundation’s Every Bright Future Needs a Strong Foundation campaign. Launched last year by MCC alumni Robin and Tim Wentworth, the campaign seeks to raise $50 million to increase the number of scholarships available to MCC students and help grow the local economy through a well-educated and technically sophisticated workforce. With the Wegman foundation gift, the campaign has raised $45 million to date.

Funding tech ed and more

In Wisconsin, Michael Kopper and Michele Whitfield announced a $2.85 million donation to the Gateway Technical College Foundation to fund scholarships for students in engineering and manufacturing-related programs as well as to benefit students in the college’s Promise program.

A total of $1.5 million was contributed to establish the Kopper Family Fund, with $1.35 million going toward Gateway’s Promise program. Kopper is the founder and CEO of the decanter centrifuge manufacturer Centrisys Corp. and his wife, Whitfield, is the marketing director of the company.

Kooper started his education at a technical college in Germany, much like Gateway, at a young age and it has helped him in his career success, Whitfield said. Their ultimate goal is to spark an interest in technical education among others as a viable and solid way to gain the skills to a career, she said.

“We believe it’s important to keep manufacturing alive, and the way to do that is through education. We felt the need to give and allow for more educational opportunities in the Kenosha area,” Whitfield said.

In February, Gateway received a $1.2 million bequest from the Beverly and Otto Tarnowski estate, which added to couple’s $804,000 gift in 2013.

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