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2012 March 5 - 12:00 am


  • A $5 million private gift from a Presque Isle native will have a “transformative impact” on the nation’s northeastern-most community college. That word came from officials with Northern Maine Community College and the NMCC Foundation, who announced the historic contribution and outlined plans for significant projects the donation will make possible. The gift comes from Mary Barton Akeley Smith, a staunch supporter of NMCC and the city of Presque Isle. Smith is a California resident who last year supported the college with a $1.2 million gift that greatly advanced the school’s alternative energy program offerings. She also made possible the expansion of the city’s Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Library with a $1 million contribution. The most recent donation will provide the lion’s share of the $6 million needed to renovate and repurpose two existing facilities at NMCC. The 9,000-square-foot building which now houses the college dining commons will be transformed into the Rodney Smith Center for Fitness and Occupational Wellness in honor of the donor’s late husband. The 14,000 square-foot facility that is now the college gymnasium and sits in the center of the campus will become the new Akeley Student Center in honor of Mary Smith’s parents and family. The naming of the Akeley Student Center will reflect the contributions to the Aroostook County community by the Akeley family. The family represented the best of the region’s famed work ethic.

  • Leaders at South Arkansas Community College were both overjoyed and astonished upon receiving the surprise announcement recently that a wealthy philanthropist — one with no apparent connections to the school — has provided the largest single charitable donation in the institution’s history. Norris Cunningham Taylor Jr., who had been an accountant in Fort Smith before his death in October of last year, left nearly $250,000 to the college in his will. He has no known ties to the school or even to the area. It was one of 40 such gifts, totaling more than $11 million, that Taylor bequeathed to institutions and organizations throughout Arkansas. The donation will filter through the SouthArk Foundation. Its director, Cynthia Reyna, initially learned of the gift in early December but was not informed of the amount until later.

  • Georgia’s adult learners who can’t afford the cost of a GED test are getting some big help from AT&T. The telecommunications giant has donated $50,000 to the Technical College System of Georgia to create GED testing scholarships for qualified, low-income students. The fund will be administered through the TCSG Office of Adult Education, which manages the state’s GED instruction and testing programs. Sylvia Russell, the president of AT&T Georgia, presented the check to TCSG Commissioner Ron Jackson during the meeting of the TCSG State Board on February 2, 2012. Russell is also a member of the TCSG board, which is responsible for overseeing the policies and procedures for Georgia’s technical colleges and their technical education, adult education and workforce training programs. The donation will allow almost 800 low-income Georgians to receive a $65 voucher to be used toward the cost of the full GED test. Learners must attend a state-approved adult education class.
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