Gift of million-dollar scholarship endowment boosts capital campaign goal

In the true sense of the holiday spirit, Tennessee Technological University alumnus Earl McDonald has given the Cookeville campus one of the greatest gifts of all -- a gift that keeps on giving, literally.

McDonald, who lives in Fayette, Ala., recently gave the university $1 million worth of stock to fund the Earl McDonald Scholarship Endowment and has set aside another million dollars for the scholarship in his will.

Because of the recent gift and a strong show of support from other alumni and friends of the university, Tennessee Tech officials are announcing a revised goal for its "Sharing the Vision" Capital Campaign. With less than a year to go in the five-year fund-raising effort, the campaign goal is now $20 million, up from the original target of $15 million. The university is already counting more than $17.5 million in cash and pledges.

The McDonald endowment will fund numerous scholarships every year, beginning as early as next fall. The only criteria: to be a prospective or current student in good standing at the university.

A widower with no children, McDonald has made helping others a major part of his life. He has made other generous contributions to a number of other colleges and religious institutions since his retirement. He graduated from Tennessee Tech in 1937 before earning his wealth in the telephone and cable industries. The university holds a special place in his heart, he says, because it was an "affordable" means to higher education during the Depression years. He made his first major donation to the university two years ago with a $150,000 gift to ensure a $75,000 matching grant from the Coca-Cola Foundation to fund endowed scholarships for first-generation college students.

"I worked hard during my lifetime -- 60 and 70 hours a week," McDonald says, "and my estate grew because of that hard work. There are organizations out there like Tennessee Tech that are working just as hard to give young people an opportunity to realize their dreams. Sharing my estate with such organizations, to me, is why the Lord has blessed me financially."

McDonald has received a variety of awards and recognition for his generosity and service, including the Tennessee Tech Distinguished Alumnus Award, the Alabama Senior Citizens Hall of Fame 1995 Golden Eagle Outstanding Senior Citizen of the Year Award, the State of Tennessee Outstanding Achievement Award, and the Distinguished Citizen Award from Huntsville, Tenn.

The "Sharing the Vision" Capital Campaign is Tennessee Tech's first attempt at a university-wide capital campaign. Its goal is to raise funds for four areas of need at the university -- endowed scholarship, equipment modernization, instructional improvement and faculty renewal, and dormitory renovation.