NORFOLK, Neb. – Christmas has come a week early for Northeast Community College. The institution has received a substantial financial gift that will assist students for generations to come.
President Leah Barrett was notified recently that author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott is donating $15 million to the College, making it the largest single donor contribution in Northeast’s history. Scott is contributing $4.1 billion to 384 organizations across all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington D.C. Northeast Community College is among the organizations.
Funding comes after Scott and her team took a data-driven approach to identify organizations, including those providing higher education and workforce training. The team chose organizations with strong executive teams leading effective organizations that have a high potential to impact those who are struggling, especially those who have seen their lives upended by the pandemic. She said the carefully selected organizations have dedicated their lives to helping others, serving “real people” face-to-face, day-after-day to alleviate suffering of those hardest hit by the effects of COVID-19.
“On behalf of the Board of Governors, faculty, staff, students, and future students, I want to express my sincere gratitude to Scott for recognizing Northeast Community College with her extreme generosity,” Barrett said. “This donation is in alignment with our efforts to create pathways for all people in our 20-county service area to earn a certificate or degree. It will allow us to more effectively engage with the underrepresented students in Nebraska’s higher education communities by providing scholarships for thousands of people in our region in perpetuity.”
The Northeast Community College Foundation will place Scott’s gift in an endowment to support student scholarships and student success initiatives across the College’s 20-county service area.
Barrett feels Northeast was selected by Scott’s philanthropy because it is tackling complex challenges that require sustained efforts over many years, while simultaneously addressing consequences of the pandemic. She said Scott wants to call attention to organizations and leaders who are driving change – “empowering leaders who are well-positioned to accelerate progress.”
The donation comes at a good time for many students who have put their education on hold. The COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted the path of many low-income students who wanted to attend college. As a result, hundreds of prospective students in northeast Nebraska had to reprioritize their pursuit of higher education to take on additional responsibilities to support their families.
Northeast’s enrollment of low income, Latinx, and adult education students is down from 2019. Barrett said Scott recognizes that her generous gift can make a difference in the region by creating opportunities for economic mobility, addressing equity and improving access.
Barrett said the work Northeast has undertaken aligns with Scott’s values and philosophies in how it is addressing workforce development, providing avenues of success and opportunities for English language learners and first-generation college students, concentrating on diversity, equity and inclusion, supporting the expansion of rural broadband, and much more.
“Her gift will help in so many ways for not only our students, but for our entire 20-county region. Words of ‘thanks’ are simply not enough.”
Scott is also encouraging others to give to the organizations she has contributed to.
“If you’re craving a way to use your time, voice, or money to help others at the end of this difficult year, I highly recommend a gift to one of the thousands of organizations doing remarkable work all across the country,” Scott said. “Every one of them could benefit from more resources to share with the communities they’re serving. And the hope you feed with your gift is likely to feed your own.”
The way Barrett was notified of the donation to the College is a story in itself. Two weeks ago, she received an email from a person who wrote, “I support the efforts of a philanthropist who is interested in contributing to Northeast Community College. I was hoping we could schedule a quick 15-minute follow-up call to discuss next steps.”
Barrett said, “I was quite skeptical at first, but I still scheduled a call – what did I have to lose? The call was late in the day just two weeks ago. After a brief conversation, I hung up the phone and just had a good cry. I was overwhelmed by the emotion, the opportunity and the responsibility. Scott’s representative articulated that the success of Northeast Community College and my life’s journey in higher education had been noticed.”
Steve Anderson, of Concord, chair of the Northeast Board of Governors, said Scott’s gift will be transformational as it will assist many students who have been unable to achieve their goal of attending college, earning a degree and accomplish the success they desire. He said the gift also fulfills a wish of J. Paul McIntosh, the late Norfolk businessman, developer and philanthropist who served on the Northeast board of governors and foundation board for more than twenty years.
“J. Paul had a dream to fund scholarships for anyone in northeast Nebraska who has a desire to attend Northeast Community College; now MacKenzie Scott has allowed for that dream to come true. Her philanthropy will be felt across the College’s entire 20-county service area,” Anderson said. “This unselfish gift is extraordinary in not only the magnitude of the dollars she is providing, but its impact will give students the opportunity to achieve their dreams and have a bright future. It is simply priceless!”