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Minnesota West foundation to unveil benefactors at fundraiser

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WORTHINGTON -- On Saturday, for the first time, Minnesota West will have the opportunity to thank those who have arranged to donate to the college posthumously.

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The Minnesota West Community and Technical College Foundation, which provides financial support to students, has created a Legacy Society to publicly thank those who name the college as a beneficiary in their will or on their life insurance policy.

"The reason we're doing it is a year and a half ago, we got a gift from a woman in Granite Falls, which was fantastic, but we would like to say thank you to her while she was still alive," explained Jim Smalley, the foundation's executive director. "So this is our way to thank them properly before they pass away."

The program is college-wide, so anyone in the region can donate to the college as a whole or a specific campus.

The inaugural Legacy Society members, Rod Schmidt, and Dennis and Marie Weeks, have directed their gift toward the Worthington campus and will be honored at the foundation's annual "Evening with the Stars," fundraising dinner.

Schmidt, who attended then-Worthington Community College in the late '60s, had a rough start academically, splitting his time between high school coursework and helping support his family after his father's untimely death.

He was, however, a skilled athlete, and went on to find a mentor in WCC track coach Arlen Patrick, who offered him a job and housing in exchange for his enrollment. He credited WCC with saving his life, guessing he would have dropped out of a larger school and been drafted into the Vietnam War.

Later, Schmidt did find academic success after transferring to Minnesota State University, Mankato, where he earned a degree in sales. After a successful career in the oil industry, he moved to Sioux Falls, S.D., where he began a new chapter, merging his love of history and architecture by rehabbing old buildings in the area.

Both Dennis and Marie Weeks grew up in southwest Minnesota and attended South Dakota State University before going on to teach at schools in Iowa.

Dennis later chose to enter the insurance business, and took out a life insurance policy that could be used to pay for his children's college education. When he decided to return to teaching, he took a position as a math and physics instructor at WCC.

As the Weeks' children grew, graduated college and purchased their own homes, Dennis was left with a policy that served no more purpose for his family. He decided using those funds for student scholarships at Minnesota West would be a chance to give back to the college that allowed his return to teaching. He still teaches one section of algebra each semester.

The foundation event begins at 6 p.m. Saturday, with a 6:30 p.m. dinner of stuffed pork chops catered by the Countryside Inn of Adrian.

A silent auction during the event will feature a grill from Runnings Farm and Fleet among other items. Bidders can also vie for the chance to have a guest cook -- Widboom Farm or college president Richard Shrubb -- visit their homes for a barbecue feast.

"Widbooms are doing everything; they include the food and come do the cooking. Dr. Schrubb is doing all the cooking and that is paired with a $100 gift certificate at W-2's Quality Meats," Smalley said.

Entertainment will include musical performances by Minnesota West instructor Eric Parrish; accordion music by retired faculty member Galen Benton; and Anna Vorhes, a student at Augustana College, playing her harp.

Event proceeds fund scholarships for students on the Worthington campus.

For tickets, call the Foundation office at 372-3475 or e-mail foundation@mnwest.edu.

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