By LARRY PEJEAU, guest columnist
Brown County has a long history of energetic and interesting characters.
One of the first such characters I met when I returned to Brown County to start working at the Brown County Community Foundation was David Hennessy.
He introduced himself, with a twinkle in his eye and a big smile, as a very important person in the community. I took note and never forgot his name.
When you are really doing the good work of the BCCF, you are looking for individuals with a passion — a passion so strong that they might want to support it forever by opening an endowment.
Well, David had just such a passion, and he had started an endowed scholarship fund: the Brown County Citizens Scholarship at the BCCF to share and support that passion.
He had opened that fund because he was so incredibly appreciative of the financial help he had received with his college education. He was passionate about the value of a higher education and he believed he could and should support Brown County students to have the same access to higher education to realize their dreams.
David graduated from Cortland State Teachers College in New York thanks to the state’s free tuition program. This scholarship program was part of the 1944 GI Bill, and it offered scholarships to students who wanted to be teachers.
David graduated in three years, became a teacher, and eventually went on to graduate school at Indiana University. He started his own consulting company and traveled the world. He readily admits that his interesting life and business success would not have been possible without that college education.
David and Millie Hennessy started the BC Citizens Scholarship in 2001 by opening an endowed scholarship fund at the BCCF. They organized and promoted fundraising events including art and fine craft sales, a dance marathon, sponsoring plays at the Brown County Playhouse, manning food booths at the Brickyard 500 and U.S. Grand Prix, musical galas, Dixieland and jazz concerts and, impressively, two 1,000-mile bike rides by David with all sponsorship donations supporting the scholarship.
David and Millie organized these events, sold tickets, cajoled friends and neighbors to volunteer and administered the scholarship with the help of a volunteer scholarship committee. The members of that original committee along with David and Millie were Doug Baird, Hank Berg, Janice Cassiday, Mike Knight, Andrea Elkins, Andrew Gustin, Lacy Jones, Tom Hensel, Stu Huffman, Jean-Pat Rich and Cheryl Rich.
The first two $4,000 scholarships were awarded in 2002. Since then, 41 students have benefited from this scholarship and almost all of them have gone on to graduate.
In 2012, David, always looking for another challenge, decided he would not award another scholarship until the Brown County Citizens Scholarship fund had total assets in excess of $100,000. Upon achieving that goal, the BCCF scholarship committee would start awarding the scholarship annually.
David and Millie worked with BCCF staff who helped with promotional articles and mailings to achieve this milestone. I am proud to announce that in July, the goal was reached. The Brown County Citizens Scholarship will be awarded again in the spring of 2017 and every year after, forever.
David and Millie know that their full life of travel and success would not have been possible without lifelong learning. College for David would have been impossible without tuition assistance. David and Millie, like the many donors that have started scholarship funds at the BCCF, want to assist other students with a generous hand up.
As higher education becomes increasingly more important and more expensive, growing the BCCF scholarship funds is an important community asset to assist our Brown County graduates’ continued educational attainment. We benefit as a community when we focus and expand educational opportunities.
The future of the community will soon be in the hands of our graduates. Let’s help our future leaders have access to post-secondary education, develop the skills and gain the wisdom and experience to continue to build a strong and vibrant community.
We have to trust that one day, they, like David and Millie, will decide to pay it forward in appreciation of the philanthropic support offered by their community.
If you are interested in helping Brown County students by contributing to the BC Citizens Scholarship or any one of the scholarship funds at the Brown County Community Foundation, please contact staff or stop by our office.
For a limited time, the BCCF will match 50 cents for every $1 donated to a BCCF scholarship fund.
Give where you live.
Larry Pejeau is CEO of the Brown County Community Foundation. He can be reached at 812-988-4882 or firstname.lastname@example.org.