PADUCAH, KY (December 15, 2020) – West Kentucky Community and Technical College proudly announced today a $15 million gift from author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott – the largest gift from a single donor in the college’s history.
In announcing the donation, Scott gave accolades for the college’s work on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and initiatives to further opportunities for low-income and disenfranchised students under the leadership of Dr. Anton Reece, WKCTC president since October 2016.
“On behalf of the WKCTC family, internal and external stakeholders, and colleagues across the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, I am honored and deeply humbled by the recognition and unmatched magnitude of this historic announcement,” Dr. Reece said at a press conference at the college’s Student Center today.
“MacKenzie Scott exemplifies the incredible and transformative power of philanthropy and long-standing commitment to equity and social justice by providing resources to meet the complex needs of diverse, first– generation, lower socioeconomic and historically marginalized populations. I consider myself extremely fortunate to serve and lead WKCTC as the ‘face and voice’ of the five-time, top ten college in the nation right here in western Kentucky, but to be unequivocally clear, this recognition must be shared by an incredible and dedicated faculty and staff who work tirelessly to support the regional vision and commitment to meet and exceed in our student success efforts.”
The gift has been donated to Paducah Junior College, Inc., which is the foundation for WKCTC.
“This historic gift to the college will have a lasting impact going forward and is a testament to the long history of success at West Kentucky Community Technical College and its predecessor institutions,” said PJC Board of Trustees Chair Anne Gwinn. “Paducah Junior College, the foundation for WKCTC, is very happy to accept and manage this gift on behalf of the college. To say it will be put to good use is an understatement.”
WKCTC Board of Director Charles Murphy said it was a blessing to receive such a generous gift.
“This will allow WKCTC to move to the next level of education and meet the needs of diverse and low-income students throughout the Four Rivers and surrounding region,” Murphy said. “I would also like to thank Dr. Reece, the faculty and staff for all their hard work and dedication to the college.”
Dr. Reece’s commitment to the students of Kentucky is evident through the work he does each day, said Walter G. Bumphus, Ph.D., President and CEO, American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). “His active participation in diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, including AACC’s Unfinished Business initiative, has been a hallmark of his leadership. The recognition of this work and the advancement of his efforts to increase student attainment are the reasons that West Kentucky Community and Technical College have been recognized by MacKenzie Scott with her generous support. Community colleges like West Kentucky Community and Technical College serve as an on-ramp to the middle class for many Americans, including those impacted by the economic effects of the pandemic. Congratulations to Dr. Reece for this recognition and his dedication to the students served by West Kentucky Community and Technical College.”
In 2019, Scott pledged to give half of her wealth to charity. In July 2020, the philanthropist wrote in the post, “116 Organizations Driving Change” about her first group of recipients of significant gifts, with the selected organizations “having major impact” in the areas of race equity, LGBTQ+ equity, economic mobility, empathy and bridging divides, functional democracy, public health, global development, or climate change.
Ninety-one (91%)percent of the racial equity organizations who received Scott’s first gifts in July are run by leaders of color, 100% of the LGBTQ+ equity organizations are run by LGBTQ+ leaders, and 83% of the gender equity organizations are run by women, “bringing lived experience to solutions for imbalanced social systems,” Scott wrote in July. “Driven by a deep belief in the value different backgrounds bring to problem-solving on any issue, we selected for diversity in leadership across all categories of giving, supporting vital variety of perspective and experience in solutions on every cause. All of these leaders and organizations have a track record of effective management and significant impact in their fields. I gave each a contribution and encouraged them to spend it on whatever they believe best serves their efforts.”
After her initial gifts, Scott asked a team of advisors to help her accelerate her 2020 giving through immediate support to people suffering the economic effects of the pandemic crisis, racial tensions and other inequities.
Today, Scott provided more information about her efforts in an article titled, “384 Ways to Help,” published on the web site, “Medium.com.” WKCTC is one of only three community colleges included in the list of nearly 400 organizations selected to receive funding. They identified organizations with strong leadership teams and results, with special attention to those operating in communities facing high projected food insecurity, high measures of racial inequity, high local poverty rates, and low access to philanthropic capital.
“We looked at 6,490 organizations, and undertook deeper research into 822,” she wrote. “We do this research and deeper diligence not only to identify organizations with high potential for impact, but also to pave the way for unsolicited and unexpected gifts given with full trust and no strings attached. Because our research is data-driven and rigorous, our giving process can be human and soft.”
Reece said this gift could not have come at a better time. “The timing of this gift cannot be understated with the dual backdrop of a once in a century pandemic of COVID-19 and racial and social justice issues of 2020,” he said. “This historic gift is generationally transformative both in size and generational investment in education and workforce possibilities for current and future traditional and adult students.”
WKCTC is one of the only three community and technical colleges in the nation to make the list of previous or current recipient organizations. “I am absolutely thrilled to hear this news,” said Dr. Paul Czarapata, interim president of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. “West Kentucky Community and Technical College has always had an unwavering focus on the success of their students, and this is a testament of their commitment to excellence. This historic gift in a very turbulent time is such a blessing for a wonderful college!”
The gift is unrestricted, but Reece said the donor’s intent was made clear in the gift notification and recognition of initiatives he has led previously and will be carefully followed.
“In the following weeks, I will be revealing how the award will be endowed and used to launch the ‘WKCTC guarantee’ of high-profile partnerships for education and non-profit organizations supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion and rural, first–generation and lower socioeconomic adult and traditional students’ pathways to completing education and workforce training. In addition, a top priority navigating through and beyond COVID-19 is increasing jobs, workforce readiness and training, upgrading skills through intentional collaboration with WKCTC Workforce Solutions, the Paducah Chamber and regional economic development partners to expand and support the success of small and diverse businesses,” Reece explained.
The historic gift is one of the largest single donor gifts in national community and technical college history, and according to WKCTC Vice President of Advancement and Executive Director of the Paducah Junior College Foundation, Lee Emmons, it surpasses by several million dollars the previous largest gift to the college.