WAYNE – As homecoming moves in the latter half of the week, a special announcement from the Gardner Foundation of pledging $1.8 million was made during the annual scholarship luncheon Thursday afternoon.
From the Kanter Student Center inside the Frey Conference Suite, the luncheon celebrated the roughly 320 donors and recipients of scholarships. Student speakers included Morgan Keating of Wayne, a junior business management major and Cade Kalkowski of Niobrara, a senior agriculture business major.
Wayne State College continues to increase the number of scholarships to give the students.
President at Wayne State College, Dr. Marysz Rames said 51% of their students are first generation college students and they need that financial support to attend WSC and fulfill their dream of earning a degree.
“For the Gardner Foundation to step up to plate like they did today to support both athletic and academic scholarships are huge,” said president Rames. “A very emotional day and I just can’t express my gratitude to that foundation and that family.”
The gift from the Gardner Foundation was also the largest scholarship donation that the college has received in their history.
Of the $1.8 million gift, $300,000 will be used for the conversion of the college’s Natatorium into an Indoor Athletic Complex, according to director of athletics Mike Powicki.
“For not only our athletics, but also our club programs and the general student population,” Powicki added. “Just another facility that was in desperate need here at Wayne State. You know obviously, six months of the year pretty much is cold weather when we’re in session and so to have a gift towards that to help make that project happen is unbelievable.”
WSC has partnered with an architect firm that has drawn up the plans to convert into two projects. Once the final gifts come in the project will be sent out for bid and start this winter.
Most of the money will be used for scholarships being $1.5 million. The athletic scholarship fund will receive $925,000; athletic operations will receive $150,000 and academic scholarships will receive $425,000.
The Gardner Foundation, who has played a role in every fundraising initiative launched by Wayne State College, began in 1991. Leslie Bebee of the foundation mentioned they’ve supported the college through the years and wanted to assist their Capital Campaign.
“It’s very important to us,” Bebee mentioned. “A lot of times if a freshman comes, if they get that scholarship they come back. Athletes, we know how important the athletic programs are. We’ve got great student-athletes here and it’s great that they can get scholarship and come here.”
Leslie Bebee, Kirk Gardner and David Gardner lead the foundation. Every year, the Gardner Foundation gives out about $1.4 million to their area.