BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Born out of a donation of $ 100 from a faculty member, the idea for the College Heights Foundation (CHF) was born with the goal of helping students at Western Kentucky University in the need. This summer, CHF is celebrating its 98th anniversary by crossing the $ 100 million endowment milestone.
Officially incorporated on July 17, 1923, CHF was established to accept donations and bequests to provide student loans, endow scholarships, and invest in campus buildings and others. improvements. With an initial goal of $ 300,000 (approximately $ 4.7 million today), appeals for support from the Foundation were made and events were held statewide.
“Serving as a ‘trusted guardian’, CHF was created to connect WKU students who need help and encouragement with those who wish to help others in need,” said Dr Donald Smith, president of CHF. “From that very first cry for help, alumni and faculty sent donations, ushering in a tradition of ‘paying it forward’ to current and future students that continues today.”
After the first request for support, a donor wrote, “I make this offer with all my heart and further thank you for this opportunity. No doubt among the thousands of young people who have passed before your eyes, you have lost all memory of the timid country man who, in 1892, was standing at your office one morning. . . From this meeting was born an impulse which carried me through the school, equipped me to earn my living. . . I make my contribution to the College Heights Foundation. . . I would like it to be $ 100,000.
The endowment as we know it today was established in 1969 as the Memorial Fund by Dr. Kelly Thompson, third president of CHF. Dr. Dero Downing, CHF’s fourth president, continued to garner support for the endowment fund and to prioritize the creation of new scholarship funds that each told a unique story to honor and commemorate individuals, organizations and groups. This marked the shift from providing student loans to providing scholarships and initiated a period of intense growth in the CHF endowment and number of funds.
“Getting a scholarship is often a student’s first impression of philanthropy,” said Dr. Smith. “This very act of benefiting from someone else’s generosity can open this student to the idea that they too might one day help another student at WKU.
“When we ask donors why they support scholarships, they regularly tell us that they want to help others because a CHF scholarship has enabled them to come to WKU, and their time here has changed the trajectory of their lives,” Dr Smith added. “It’s a story that we never tire of hearing and sharing.
Targeted financial support for students received additional attention when WKU 10th President Dr Timothy C. Caboni announced the WKU Opportunity Fund during his inaugural address in April 2018. The Opportunity Fund is a campaign focused on students to raise $ 50 million to remove barriers to education through needs-based financial assistance to support recruitment, retention and applied research opportunities.
“The Opportunity Fund continues and enhances the important work the College Heights Foundation has been doing for nearly 100 years,” said President Caboni. “Student recruitment and retention is essential, as are hands-on educational experiences beyond the classroom that may remain out of reach for students struggling to make ends meet. The Opportunity Fund is a crucial part of our efforts to ensure that financial need is not a barrier to earning a degree at WKU or participating in the full WKU experience.
By the end of 2020, more than $ 47 million had been raised in the form of donations and pledges to meet the goal of the Opportunities Fund. This number includes 135 new endowed scholarship funds.
Since its 98th year, CHF has a total of 1,336 funds – 1,180 endowed funds and 156 non-endowed funds.
“We were quietly hoping that we would hit the $ 100 million mark by our 100th anniversary in 2023, and we’re so happy to be able to share that we crossed that threshold early,” said Dr Smith. “We owe a large part of this success to the consistent and strong leadership of our Board of Directors. “
Those who sit on the CHF board tend to do so for long periods of time, demonstrating their commitment to supporting WKU students.
Mike Simpson, owner and chairman of Chandler Property Management and Horton Hill, LLC, is currently chairman of the board of CHF. Simpson, who is a longtime scholarship donor, says he gives because his father instilled in him the idea that “an education is really the one thing that can never be taken from you.”
“The work of CHF’s board of directors is essential in giving students hope and the opportunity to advance to higher education,” added Simpson. “It gives me great pleasure to see people from all walks of life having the opportunity to improve their lot in life. “
Dr. Melissa Dennison, pediatrician at Glasgow Pediatric Associates, is CHF’s newest board member and shares Simpson’s sentiments.
“I am honored to have served on the National Board of the WKU Alumni Association, the Board of Directors and now the Board of Directors of CHF,” said Dr. Dennison. “I learned so much about these boards, and found that WKU and the people who sit on these boards are all student-focused. This is why I serve, and I will continue to serve as long as I am needed.
Dr. Dennison said she believes “investing in someone’s education is the best way to invest in the future of a community.
“As a physician, I am asked to contribute to many organizations,” added Dr. Dennison. “All are important, but I decided to give to WKU because the education I received there has changed my life, and the career I had in Glasgow hopefully made the children better health and happier. If someone continues their education on a scholarship they received and then uses that education to contribute to their community, it is a victory for everyone.
While this milestone and anniversary are worth celebrating, that doesn’t mean the CHF is slowing down.
“We are proud of the number of students we have been able to help over the past 98 years, and we will continue to find ways to support more students for our next century and beyond,” said Dr. Smith.