NICEVILLE --- Marking its 20th anniversary, the Okaloosa-Walton College Foundation learned this week that its endowment has been ranked 6th largest among community colleges in a national study of college and universities conducted by the Council for Advancement to Education.
Lori Kelley, OWC Foundation president, and Dr. Bob Richburg, OWC President, announced the results of the CAE's 2007 Voluntary Support for Education Survey (VSE) which reviews philanthropic giving to educational institutions at more than 1,300 institutions in the U.S. who completed the survey.
"This is really awesome for our foundation's endowment to be number six in the nation," said Kelley. "What a great way to celebrate our 20th anniversary and to say thank you again to all the friends, alumni, organizations and businesses that have been so generous over the years."
Richburg also said the VSE Survey rated the OWC Foundation number two in the country in the amount of funds raised in 2007 after receiving more than $17 million in contributions. The OWC Foundation placed second behind Salt Lake Community College.
"It is quite an honor and distinction for the college and foundation to be recognized by both of these rankings. We want the community to share the pride we feel in this because we were able to accomplish this through each donation," said Richburg, who added that two other Florida colleges were in the Top 10 of largest endowments with Valencia Community College (Orlando) placing first and Central Florida Community College (Ocala) ranking fifth. "We're in some great company."
Richburg said the OWC Foundation's endowment has grown from $12,000 in 1988 to its current $47 million due to strong involvement by community and the dedication of area leaders who serve on the foundation's board of directors. Richburg said that in terms of scholarship support for local students, the OWC Foundation awarded scholarships to a record 456 students for the 2007-08 academic year with scholarship awards totaling more than $410,000. The foundation's total direct support to the college in 2007 topped more than $2.3 million dollars in support of instructional programs, scholarships and other endeavors such as the fine arts and athletics.
Jim Chitwood, OWC Foundation Executive Director, explained that contributions and matching gifts create a permanent source of funds for OWC and the annual earnings from the endowment are spent for the purposes specified by donors, such as scholarship support or creation of institutes such as the Mattie M. Kelly Cultural and Environmental Institute and the Allyn C. Donaldson Entrepreneurial Institute. Chitwood said the national ranking was based on the foundation's $36 million endowment reported at the end of the foundation's fiscal year September 30th, 2007 but that the current endowment totals $47 million as the foundation has received contributions and state matching dollars since the ranking was calculated.
"Whether it's economical, intellectual, or emotional, the true power of education is that it's transformational," foundation president Lori Kelley said. "The ability to enhance lives and help individuals grow is the kind of learning that is life altering." Kelley said the late Mattie Kelly's bequest and state match, which totaled more than $16 million to OWC in 2007, were also transformational and "signals to this foundation its challenge and opportunity for tomorrow, next month, next year, and the next decade. For the college to continue to have an impact on students, business and our community at large, this foundation must grow exponentially in its financial commitment."
Richburg also cited the memory of Mattie Kelly for her generosity with her bequest to establish the Mattie M. Kelly Cultural and Environmental Institute at OWC which has funded two distinguished teaching chairs for professors in orchestra music and environmental sciences as well as other endeavors as outlined in the gift's bequest.
As part of the OWC Foundation's 20th anniversary and announcement of the recent national rankings, Richburg also recognized "the men and women who paved the way for this foundation in 1988 and beyond" as founding officers of the foundation; including Destin businessman Larry Anchors, founding president, the late Carl McInnis of Niceville, founding vice president; former Fort Walton Beach banker Lamar Roberts, founding secretary; Fort Walton Beach businesswoman Marjorie Cummins, founding treasurer; and Niceville businessman Patrick Byrne, founding trustee liaison.
"These are bold and exciting times for this college," said Richburg. "Indeed, the role of the OWC Foundation has been and will continue to be a vital part in how we take those next steps in service to students and the community."