Donations show expanding role community colleges play in educating nation
July 7, 2009
Harrisburg, PA – Three recent donations to The HACC Foundation totaling $3.5 million underscore the importance of HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, to the region. The donations also show the expanding role that community colleges are playing in educating the nation, says one of the donors.
“Community colleges no longer are the stepchild in the educational family,” said Dr. Frank J. Dixon, long-time HACC benefactor whose most recent $1 million donation benefits Lebanon County students attending HACC’s Lebanon Campus. Since 1990, Dixon has been a member of the board of directors of The HACC Foundation, and served as chairman for many of those years.
Dixon noted the gifts include:
His own gift, which supplements his family foundation’s tuition assistance grant program established through the HACC Foundation. More than 2,000 students already have been helped through the program.
Alex Grass, retired Rite Aid CEO and well-known philanthropist, gave $1.5 million to HACC to establish the Alex Grass School of Business Leadership. The school was established in January on the Harrisburg Campus and is in the process of developing programs. The endowment will make it possible for the school to draw not only on Grass’ business acumen to inspire future leaders but bring other national and international business leaders to HACC.
The Donald B. and Dorothy L. Stabler Foundation gave $1 million to establish a scholarship endowment for financially needy students. To be eligible, a student must demonstrate motivation and achievements indicative of their eagerness for a college education.
“(These donations) prove to me that society has changed its thinking about the position that community colleges have in the education field,” continued Dixon, who helped to found and endow the Lebanon Campus which opened in 1990.
When the campus burned a year later, Dixon recalled: “We had a story to tell about a tragic incident, and we couldn’t raise nearly that amount in the whole community. Here we are 20 years later, and we have three gifts” of $1 million or more.
“This is unprecedented,” continued Dixon, a community philanthropist, who owned Brandywine Recyclers before retiring last year. “I cannot remember any other individual gifts of this magnitude” to the HACC Foundation within the same time frame.
HACC President Edna V. Baehre, Ph.D., said the gifts represent the “vision” and “forward-thinking” of benefactors who are “pacesetters in the world of philanthropy.”
“These gifts to the HACC Foundation, coupled with the many other supporting donors, have made The HACC Foundation one of the largest community college foundations in the nation,” she said. “Our donors value HACC’s mission to help students from all walks of life realize their dreams for a better life through education and the community college’s educational partnership with business and industry in Central Pennsylvania.”
The partnerships that HACC and other community colleges form with business and industry are critical, said Bob LePage, a consultant with The Clements Group, a Utah-based resource development and institutional advancement consulting firm that specializes in helping community colleges, technical institutes and K-12s. HACC is among the group’s clients.
“When you look at these particular gifts, they almost always involve an investment into the region’s workforce. The quality of the workforce is one of the top three concerns of business and industry (which are) faced with an aging workforce and the need for retraining,” he said.
President Barack Obama has called for a national dialogue on workforce issues and new research, noting during his remarks on job creation and job training at a White House press conference in May that this country needs “a fundamental rethinking of our job training, vocational education, and community college programs.”
In the same speech, the President called community colleges “one of America’s underappreciated assets.” He added, “These schools offer practical education and technical training, and they’re increasingly important centers of learning where Americans can prepare for the jobs of the future.”
Increased giving to community colleges is “definitely” a trend, said Polly Binns, executive director of the Council for Resource Development, an education and networking affiliate of the American Association of Community Colleges based in Washington, D.C.
“Because community colleges are doing what they say they’re going to do, philanthropists are looking closer to home,” she said. “Donors see that their gifts (to community colleges) have a direct impact on the quality of life in the region. Because 80 percent of alumni live within a 25-mile radius of the campus where they graduated, donors see a direct impact of their gifts.”
Affordability, accessibility and responsiveness to community needs are often cited as reasons for favorable impressions regarding community colleges, according to data compiled by The Clements Group.
The HACC Foundation has a portfolio of more than $24.3 million. Each year, the foundation contributes more than $1.5 million to the college in scholarships, programs, facilities, and special initiative grants (SIG) for faculty and staff support.
“Currently, there are more than 200 different scholarships and funds supporting the college, its facilities, programs and students,” said Jayne Abrams, executive director of Institutional Advancement and The HACC Foundation.
The HACC Foundation was established in 1985 as a private not-for-profit educational trust. Funds in the foundation’s portfolio predominantly represent restricted funds established as named awards and scholarships.
For more information about The HACC Foundation, contact Abrams at 717-780-2329.
HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, was established Feb. 14, 1964, as Harrisburg Area Community College. Since that time, HACC has been dedicated to the community and to the individual. The college’s devotion to the community arises from its mission to foster educational, cultural, workforce development and economic growth of HACC’s regional service area by giving each individual student the tools and environment to succeed. HACC offers nearly 200 associate and transfer degrees and certificate and diploma programs at campuses in Harrisburg, Gettysburg, Lancaster, Lebanon and York. In addition, HACC offers a wide variety of courses, including degree and certificate programs, through its Virtual Campus. HACC has an enrollment of approximately 21,000 credit students and approximately 50,000 students in workforce development and continuing education programs. For more information, go to www.hacc.edu
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