PARK HILLS – It’s about a couple’s love story, a campaign of support, a college’s and an alumnus’s 90th birthday and it’s about one of the greatest generation continuing a legacy of education for his hometown area.
As Mineral Area College celebrates its 90th year, an alumnus of its predecessor (Flat River Junior College), Gayle Simmons, has been matching contributions of up to $90 to the college’s foundation. The campaign is part of the foundation’s annual Enhancement Grant offered by the state, which matches each dollar 3-1. A $90 donation to the Foundation results in $720 with the help of the Enhancement Grant.
“Just as it takes many drops to fill a bucket, a gift of even $10 is crucial,” says Gayle. “I want future generations to receive the MAC education that has improved the lives of so many of us in the Mineral Area, but I cannot do it alone.”
The Simmons Match is reserved for individuals, one per household, and runs 90 days, from June 9 – Sept. 9. Programs to benefit during the current year include MAC business, law enforcement, and allied health programs. Donations below $90 will receive a 10 percent match, and the first 90 donations of $90 or greater will receive a $90 match.
As of this writing, about 70 donors have given more than $8,000 to the Simmons Match. Gayle hopes to raise $10,000 which, with the Simmons Match plus the State’s $3-for-$1 match, should be worth approximately $65,000 in purchasing power.
Donations can be given electronically by calling (573) 518-2114, and checks can be mailed to MAC Foundation, P.O. Box 1000, Park Hills, MO 63601.
Gayle has matched contributions before, but this year’s campaign is particularly special.
“It’s my fourth year conducting the Simmons Match, but my first year without my wife Rowena as a driving force,” he said. “Rowena passed away in November, and this year I celebrate her life-long impact as an educator and philanthropist.”
When Gayle and Rowena (Brown) Simmons met in the ‘40s, both were busy FRJC students. Rowena was active in Glee Club, the Junior Chats Staff, Revue, and Intramurals, and she participated in “A Waltz Dream.” She went on to graduate in 1944.
Gayle was serving as Junior Chats Editor and president of Phi Theta Kappa in 1943, but when duty called he paused his studies to serve in WWII. The couple married in 1945. Gayle returned to FRJC after the war and completed his associate degree in 1946.
The pair earned advanced degrees and embarked on longstanding careers as educators. Gayle spent a 50-year career in education, which included a return to FRJC to serve as a dean in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Rowena taught a total of 37 years at Flat River, Farmington, Leadwood, Windsor, Stillwater, Oklahoma and Charlotte-Mecklenburg, NC. She was president of the North Carolina Independent Teachers’ Association and served as liaison to the North Carolina State Legislature. She also held membership in Beta Sigma Phi Sorority and Phi Delta Kappa (Education).
Even in retirement, the couple worked together for years to inspire others to support higher education. Throughout Gayle’s time on the MAC Foundation Board (on which he still serves), Gayle and Rowena were champions for higher education, taking leadership roles for college initiatives and spearheading several fundraising efforts and leading by example with powerful matching gift campaigns. The couple’s philanthropy did not go unnoticed, and during MAC’s 2010 commencement ceremonies, they became the first recipients of The N. Gayle and Rowena Simmons Distinguished Service Award, named in their honor, for their unselfish, steadfast work improving lives and making MAC and its surrounding communities a better place through affordable, accessible, quality education.
“Over the last 30 years MAC Foundation has been enriching lives and strengthening our region by supporting high-quality, affordable education at MAC,” Gayle said. “Through scholarships, donors have helped hundreds of bright, promising students earn degrees and pursue greater opportunities regardless of their financial circumstances. They have also provided instructional equipment and technology for classrooms, giving MAC students a competitive edge and empowering them to become valuable and skilled team members and leaders in their careers.”
During his time with MAC Foundation, Gayle says seeing the results of donor support has brought him much joy, whether he’s touring newly enhanced classrooms, watching students receive realistic training with hands-on simulation equipment, or hearing stories from the students themselves. He has also encountered many MAC graduates in their workplaces and says he’s proud to see the community benefiting from the graduates coming into the workforce from the local college.
“I attended MAC’s predecessor Flat River Junior College, later served as a dean, and am now a member of MAC Foundation’s Board of Directors. This year, the college and I both turn 90 years old. During my nearly 90 years, I have seen many lives improved for the better through higher education,” he says.
Key Words: Mineral Area College MAC Foundation Simmons Match Flat River Junior College