Concord University Announces Endowment of Four Scholarships to Mercer County HS Graduates
Athens, W.Va. – Tom and Janie Farmer of Princeton, W.Va., have endowed the first of four $1,000 scholarships to Concord University for seniors from Mercer County’s four high schools with a gift of $20,000.
The scholarship’s initial priority will be to support teacher education majors in the areas of math, science, and foreign language, because Tom Farmer sees the need both locally and nationally for more teachers in these academic areas. However, other students may qualify as well. The Farmers have formed a foundation and selected a board of directors to choose the recipients of the scholarships.
The Farmers said they were excited and humbled to have a chance to give back to others what they have received from Mercer County Schools. Tom Farmer graduated from Bluefield High School, and Mary Jane Shumaker Farmer graduated from Princeton High School, both in 1965. They met at a Princeton church and were married in 1968.
Both Tom and Janie lost their fathers at an early age - Tom's at age 15 and Janie's at age 10. Both families persevered through tight financial times. The Farmers praised Mercer County Schools and their teachers for providing them with an excellent education and a chance to succeed.
Tom's "impossible dream" of attending West Virginia University became a reality when his senior class was excused for one day to work in local businesses. Their pay was used to create the "Work-a-Day Scholarship" fund. Tom received the $500 scholarship from his classmates and later graduated from WVU in 1969. Janie graduated from Concord College the same year.
These events motivated the Farmers with a desire to give others this kind of opportunity. Tom taught at all four high schools - Montcalm, Bluefield, Princeton, and PikeView during his career. Janie taught at Pinnacle (McComas), Montcalm, Glenwood, and Mercer Elementary Schools. Their teaching careers lasted over thirty years, and each just recently retired. During their time in Mercer County Schools, both Farmers found that education was more than just "book learning."
Tom Farmer said, “We got to know the kids in this county really well, and a lot of them were very intelligent, but they didn’t believe in themselves. I spent a lot of my time trying to encourage them. When I first started teaching, I wanted to be a really good math teacher. Then I woke up and realized that kids needed a lot more than that. They needed people who cared about them, people who loved them, and I wished I would have realized that earlier.” Now this realization has given the Farmers an outlet for their dreams to help area youth.
Their quest to help students led to Loretta Young, executive director of the Concord University Foundation. The Farmers expressed their deep pleasure with the help and cooperation received from Ms. Young and Concord University.
“Concord understood our goals and desires, and they proposed solutions. Ms. Young mentioned the West Virginia Neighborhood Investment Program,” Tom Farmer said. “The Farmers immediately agreed to endow four $1,000 scholarships at Concord University. The proposal was so awesome that we couldn't refuse,” he said, “partly because of tax credits from the West Virginia Development Office.”
The West Virginia Development Office encourages charitable giving by offering tax credit vouchers, and Concord has permission, on an annual basis, to award a predetermined amount of tax credits. The tax credit is called Neighborhood Investment Program (NIP). As a participant in the NIP, Concord can distribute the credit vouchers to individuals or businesses that contribute to the University. In return for donating cash, personal property or stock, a donor can receive a tax credit for up to 50 percent of the total donation. The NIP was designed by the West Virginia Legislature in 1996 to increase charitable donations to nonprofit organizations in the state.
Tom Farmer said that after his retirement, he felt that he and his wife needed to do something with the resources they had acquired over the years, and he wants to encourage other teachers to do the same. “Today’s teachers lived through some good times,” he said. “The market, overall, is good. It was our parents who went through the Great Depression. We chose to set aside small sums over the years and found that compound interest really works!”
Concord University President, Dr. Jerry Beasley, stated that, “We are grateful that the Farmers have chosen to support students at Concord. Many students who come to us are ‘first generation,’ and, they need the kind of financial support and emotional encouragement that Mr. Farmer emphasizes. Our students have much to offer, and we respect and appreciate the dedication and passion with which this gift has been given.”
The Farmers have two children - Richmond Edward and Jennifer Lynne - who graduated from Princeton Senior High School. The Farmers are also proud grandparents of Paige Danielle Farmer (a senior at Princeton Senior High School) and Richmond Monroe Farmer.
Should you wish to contribute to the Farmer Scholarship Fund, or if you need additional information, please contact the Concord University Foundation, P. O. Box 1405, Athens, W.Va., 24712 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
PHOTO: Dr. Jerry Beasley, Ms. Janie Farmer, Mr. Tom Farmer
Corrie McKee a senior majoring in English and journalism wrote this news release. Her hometown is Nitro, W.Va.