April 10, 2013

John Schwenn: Dalton State blessed by philanthropy

There are many things that set Dalton apart from other small Southern towns, but one of the most obvious is the spirit of philanthropy that exists here.

The pioneers of our industry were not content to merely build their business empires. They lavished the same energy, vision and creativity on nearly every aspect of our community. Their fingerprints can be found on our health care system, our school systems, our public utilities, our arts community, our recreational facilities and our houses of worship.

They showed us by their example what it means to give back and to serve. They shared their resources in addition to their acumen, and they taught those who followed them to be involved as well.

Dalton State College has likewise been blessed by philanthropy. The fact that we have a college here at all is testament to the vision and passion of local businessmen who half a century ago recognized the need for a junior college to serve northwest Georgia. Look at the names on our buildings: Westcott, Lorberbaum, Brown, Bandy — business leaders who knew the value of higher education and invested their resources in making it happen here.

Read the names of donors in our Dalton State magazine and you can appreciate the collective impact of gifts large and small that benefit our institution and make educational opportunities accessible to our students. Our donors include current students and alumni, faculty and staff, and also community folks who never have and never will take a class here but who recognize how important it is for us to have a college in our region to educate our sons and daughters and prepare them for an increasingly complex global society.

Our newest philanthropic benefactor is a man whose personal experience with Dalton State was minimal. John Willis Mashburn and his wife, Catherine, did not have children so they were not Roadrunner parents. He may have taken a continuing education class here in accounting. They lived quiet lives in the Brookwood community. From what I understand, he was a frugal man.

In his will, Mr. Mashburn made clear that he wanted to leverage the assets of his estate for the benefit of this community which was good to him. Trustees of the Mashburn Charitable Trust have pledged more than $5 million to Dalton State in hopes of elevating its stature within the region and the state. The money will be awarded in the form of scholarships for student athletes and for athletic facilities. This will have an economic impact on our community.  

Because Dalton State’s tuition and fees are so low, a small amount of scholarship money can go a long way, and projections are that hundreds of student athletes will have the opportunity to receive a Dalton State education over the next 10 years. They will enter our school as athletes, but they will leave as graduates with degrees and knowledge that will help them be productive and contributing citizens of our community, country, state and world.

We have all benefited from philanthropy in our community. We have used health care, education, utilities, the arts and recreation facilities. But there is still much to be done. At Dalton State, we will always have students who need support in completing their education. Facilities will need to be upgraded. Our burgeoning arts program needs to be expanded. We need to provide global experiences for more students. Opportunity abounds.

There is so much goodness in people in our community. Philanthropy is a powerful legacy and in that regard, this community is richly blessed and will continue to be so.

John O. Schwenn is the president of Dalton State College.

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