The group that manages the University’s endowment reaches an important milestone
By Randy Weiler
Early wisdom and foresight helped lay the groundwork for the MTSU Foundation, which recently completed its first half-century of holding and managing private gifts to MTSU.
The Foundation, which celebrated its 50th anniversary Nov. 18, 2011, has grown to oversee a more than $37.5 million endowment that has supported chairs of excellence, private and Foundation scholarships, faculty excellence awards, academics, athletics, and more.
“Much more significant to me than the balance—while that’s good—is how many students and faculty the Foundation has been able to help,” says William S. “Bill” Jones (’82), Rutherford County area executive of Pinnacle Financial Partners and member of the Past Presidents’ Executive Advisory Board. “It’s rewarding to know the Foundation is able to help and benefit current and future students for a lifetime. The greatest gift you can give somebody is an education. The Foundation helps a wide variety and number of students. That’s very rewarding.”
In 1960, it was becoming apparent that student fees and state and federal tax dollars were not supplying enough revenue to support the growing University. For a public university, private investment by foundations, corporations, businesses, and individuals was becoming a crucial way to supplement funds.
One of the five original founders of the Foundation was alumnus Randy Wood (’41). The founder of Dot Records and creator of Gallatin-based Randy’s Record Shop, which grew to become the world’s largest mail-order record business, he gave a generous gift of $40,000 in 1961. That gift led to the drafting of a charter by alumnus and Rutherford and Cannon county chancellor Whitney Stegall (’37) for “The Middle Tennessee State College Loan, Scholarship, and Development Foundation.”
Dr. Homer Pittard, considered a brilliant wordsmith, helped prepare the Foundation’s organizational material. All five founding members of the Foundation—Wood, Stegall, Pittard, retired dean N. C. Beasley, and then-University president, Dr. Quill E. Cope, signed the charter. Stegall took it to the office of the Secretary of State in Nashville. It also gained the approval of the Internal Revenue Service.
The Foundation was incorporated Dec. 31, 1961.“It was a very small beginning,” Wood was quoted as saying in 1994. “Slowly but surely, it moved right along.”
All five founding members of the MTSU Foundation have died. Wood passed away April 9, 2011.
Cope served from 1962 to 1968 as MTSU Foundation president. Thirty-eight men and women—a virtual who’s who of MTSU alumni and University friends—have followed. People like Pittard (’36), Stegall (’38), Jack Weatherford, David Cullum (’55), Sandra Trail (’72), the late John T. Bragg Sr. (’37), and all the way up to current president, Phyllis B. “Murray” Martin (’75) have served the University tirelessly. Most served multiple roles, guiding the Foundation while maintaining their professional livelihoods and endeavors in business, state government, or education and often serving on other boards and in other organizations.
H. Lynn Greer Jr., a Nashville businessman and third president of the MTSU Foundation Executive Advisory Board (serving in 1970), says the Foundation has kept a lot of alumni involved in the school. “Traditionally, it has been a good, strong board, with top corporate executives and business and community leaders,” Greer says. “It is amazing how far it has come and how much it has grown.”
Thanks to nearly 8,500 generous supporters, MTSU raised more than $8.4 million in the last fiscal year. That’s a $2 million increase over the previous year. These funds provide critical resources that are having a significant impact across the MTSU campus.
[Editor’s Note: Joe Bales is executive director of the Foundation. For more information about the Foundation, which is located in the Wood-Stegall Center, call (615) 898-5818 or visit www.mtsu.edu/development/foundation.shtml.]