A $5.5M gift to encourage STEM careers


Continuing with its recent giving to the college, SC Johnson will donate $5.5 million to Gateway Technical College (Wisconsin) to create a STEM pathway program for women and people of color who have historically been underrepresented in STEM industries.

“The high-demand fields chosen for these scholarships, like software development, electrical engineering and cybersecurity, can create higher-paying jobs, provide long-term career opportunities for students and benefit our economy,” SC Johnson CEO Fisk Johnson said Thursday in announcing the donation, which is the largest in the college’s history. “We are pleased to be able to support Gateway in its efforts to do just that for people in our community.”

SC Johnson is headquartered in Racine, Wisconsin, where Gateway has one of its nine campuses and centers. One of its centers is named the SC Johnson Integrated Manufacturing and Engineering Technology Center. 

The new SC Johnson STEM Scholars Pathway program will serve at least 180 local high school graduates over the next decade. It will award 18 scholarships annually to female students, underrepresented students of color and low-income students enrolling in: electrical engineering technology; architectural-structural engineering technician; IT-data analytics specialist; IT-cybersecurity specialist; IT-network specialist; IT-web developer; and IT-software developer.

Continued support

The program also provides a pathway for its graduates to go on to a four-year institution. After completing their Gateway degree, students can enroll at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, Carthage College or Concordia University to complete their bachelor’s degree.  

“Building on a pathway from high school through Gateway and on to the university, STEM Scholars will inspire future generations of youth to pursue their dreams of achieving a college degree,” said Gateway President Bryan Albrecht.

SC Johnson, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of home storage and household cleaning products, has a history of supporting Gateway. Since 2001, the company has contributed more than $10.8 million to the college to support students’ hands-on technical education and training. Most recently, it donated $530,000 for Gateway’s Highly Skilled Occupations for Professional Employment (HOPE) Initiative, which provides training opportunities in high-demand fields to people displaced from work due to the pandemic. 

Gift details

Pertaining to its latest gift, SC Johnson, through its charitable foundation, will contribute $1.1 million to Gateway’s foundation annually for the next five years. Students will receive $7,500 annually for four years to pay for costs at Gateway and the other institutions, including tuition, books, supplies and additional services.

The four-year institutions have pledged a matching annual amount of $7,500 for each student in addition to the pathway scholarship.

The funds also will cover support services for the students, such tutoring, counseling and community networking services at each of the institutions. 

A welcoming trend

The SC Johnson donation is part of a growing number of million-dollar-plus gifts and grants presented to community colleges over the past few years, but especially in the past year as the pandemic has hit community college students especially hard.

Earlier this month, Montgomery County Community College (Pennslyvania) announced a $3 million gift from Kenneth Baker to create a center focused on employee ownership and business transformation. Also this month, Union County College alumnus Bruce Weidenburner left the bulk of his estate, valued at nearly $2.7 million, to the college’s foundation.

Last month, Grand Rapids Community College in Michigan announced it will use a $1 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to connect people in vulnerable populations to career opportunities related to the city’s river restoration projects, infrastructure and public works. In Missouri, Metropolitan Community College received a $5 million grant from the Sunderland Foundation to support three new buildings to house the college’s engineering technology program.

In Pennsylvania, a former airline pilot and World War II veteran left $1 million to Lehigh Carbon Community College to provide scholarships to students in the college’s aviation program. Meanwhile, Virginia’s Rappahannock Community College received a $2.7 million gift from a former College of William & Mary math professor to help at-risk high school navigate into college.

In December, author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott announced that she is giving away nearly $4.2 billion to 384 organizations, including about a dozen community colleges, to help communities most in need due to the effects of the pandemic.

Also in December, Portland Community College (Oregon) received a $5.5 million bequest from the estate of poet Carolyn Moore to create a writers residency program. In Illinois, Parkland College (Illinois) received $1.5 million from the estate of C. Paul and Marjorie Davis, who had no prior connection with the college.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.