Published: Sun Apr 17, 2005As Tennessee Tech University president Bob Bell prepared to announce a campaign to build a center for teaching and learning in science- and engineering-related fields, one TTU alumnus had already stepped up to the plate.
Stephen Rains, president and CEO of Progressive Savings Bank and the Rains Agency in Jamestown and a 1985 TTU English graduate, provided the down payment for the university’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Center with a major financial commitment announced this week.
“Our bank and agency are leaders in providing financial information technology services,” Rains said. “That means we need qualified, educated people to help serve our customers. Our corporate culture and philosophy depend on it.”
Rains said he wanted his first major gift to the university to have the most impact. In his role with the bank and in his community, he recognizes the need for an emphasis on improving science and technology.
“We want to be a good corporate citizen,” he added about Progressive and the Rains Agency. “Relationships like this with Tennessee Tech result in an economic benefit for the entire Upper Cumberland region by developing a trained and more knowledgeable workforce. Tennessee Tech is an economic force for good in our communities.”
During his years as a student at TTU, Rains served as the student government association president and received the university’s most prestigious student award — the Derryberry Award given annually to a graduating senior who has shown scholastic ability, participation in campus activities, citizenship, leadership and excellence in sports.
After graduating from TTU, he earned his law degree from the University of Tennessee before returning to his hometown of Jamestown to practice law and support the family businesses at the Rains Agency. His late father, Lyndon Rains, and other visionary business leaders created the bank in 1980. The bank provides a unique service by offering financial, insurance and wealth management services under one roof in its Jamestown home office. The bank also operates branches in Morgan and Cumberland County.
“Our bank has distinguished itself through the use of technology,” Rains said. “We’re one of the few financial institutions of our size to do all of our digital imaging and data processing in-house, so we’re constantly on the look-out for technology-savvy employees.
“Drawing from the workforce that TTU provides means these graduates are ahead of the game. We’ve been extremely fortunate with the fine folks we already hired from Tennessee Tech. They received superior training, and we want that tradition to continue and improve.”
Rains was also influenced by his friend and fellow TTU alumnus Scott Edwards, whose family owns and operates Micro Metals in Jamestown and are major financial contributors to the university as well. He now joins Edwards as a member of the TTU President’s Club 1915 Society.
“It’s about giving back to the university that gave us our start,” he added.
That concept is one all of his employees at the bank have bought into as well. At the urging of one of his employees who is also a TTU graduate, Rains created a matching gift program to encourage private giving to the university. He has agreed to match every donation, dollar for dollar, that a Progressive Bank or Rains Agency employee makes to TTU.
While the STEM Center gift is a personal donation from Stephen Rains, the Rains family founded the Rains Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to the principles championed by Lyndon Rains — scholarship, commerce, entrepreneurship, athleticism, physical vigor and sportsmanship. The foundation offers student scholarships and tuition assistance programs in Fentress, Morgan, Cumberland and Pickett counties, where the family lived or operates businesses.
Rains plans to expand the Rains Agency’s insurance operations to the Putnam County area, and said he felt the STEM Center donation was a strong foundation to lay for his entry into the market.
According to Bell, it ties in perfectly to the university’s plans for the region’s success as well. With Rains’ gift, the university announced the kick-off to a $6 million fund-raising campaign to build the STEM Center facility by 2008.
For more information about the STEM Center or details on how to join the fund-raising campaign, contact Tom Hamilton, associate vice president of University Development at 372-3055 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.