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Donor Spotlight

Portrait of Michael and Marilyn Garnto


Michael Garnto, ’83 industrial technology and Marilyn Rockovich Garnto, ’82 psychology

Michael (’83 industrial technology) and Marilyn Rockovich Garnto (’82 psychology) have supported Tennessee Tech for more than 30 years, and their most recent gift to establish a scholarship for Tech students was actually inspired by Michael’s position as the Chief Operating Officer of Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM) and Marilyn’s 30-plus-year career in education. 

The Garntos designated a portion of their estate to establish the Marilyn Rockovich Garnto and Michael Garnto Scholarship and, in addition to their estate gift commitment, have also made a generous current gift to allow the scholarship to be awarded early.  The scholarship will be awarded to legally blind or visually impaired students pursuing an engineering degree. 

“It is our way of continuing to show our thanks and appreciation to the University that was instrumental in us developing tools for our future endeavors as well as a place where we forged lifelong friendships,” said Michael.  “Tech challenged us both to become better students and provided the environment for us to be successful, from the size of the classrooms to the dedication of the faculty.  It provided us the opportunity to participate in activities that were instrumental to our growth including fraternity and sorority functions, intramural sports, band, and community activities.  We have always cherished the time we spent at Tech as well as Cookeville.” 

BISM creates jobs for legally blind adults through the manufacturing and distribution of products for the State of Maryland, Federal Government, and commercial marketplace.  In addition, BISM provides independence training to the blind community through youth, adult, and senior programs.  The mission of the organization is to provide blind people with the tools to meet any challenge they choose to pursue and live their lives without impediment.  The Garntos hope to create a partnership between Tech and BISM. 

“With this scholarship and relationships between these two organizations, we are hopeful that not only will a deserving student be provided a valuable education, but we also hope to open the door for potential career opportunities within BISM as well,” Michael explained. 

The Scholarship Office, College of Engineering, and Accessible Education Center (formerly known as Disability Services) will select the scholarship recipient each year, and Chester Goad, director of Tech’s Accessible Education Center, is especially grateful for the opportunities the scholarship and partnership will afford visually impaired students. 

“Individuals with disabilities bring diversity and unique perspective to the Tennessee Tech community,” said Goad.  “Because the Garntos have chosen to invest in the education of students with disabilities, the workforce will someday benefit from that richer diversity and those unique perspectives as well.” 

The Accessible Education Center will be one of five areas of focus for Tech’s 2nd Annual “I Heart Tech Students” faculty and staff campaign, which will run from February 14 through March 27, and for Tech’s Day of Giving on March 27.  The Center is committed to providing equal access to Tech’s academic and physical environments. 

“Due to our experience with Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, we understand the challenges of the legally blind or visually impaired and wanted a vehicle of assistance for this specific group,” said Michael.  “As COO of this organization, my most rewarding experience comes from creating an environment that fosters growth and excellence from our associates.  As the President of our organization often says, ‘Do the right thing for the right reasons and you will get the right results.'"

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