Foundation to award $590K in scholarships for 2017-18

Adrian Touchstone speaks at a lectern.
Lee College alumnus Adrian Touchstone shares with guests at the 32nd annual Lee College Foundation Gala how receiving a scholarship from the foundation helped him complete his associate degree and find greater meaning and purpose in a life once characterized by drug addiction, prison stints and wrongheaded thinking. The foundation announced that proceeds from the gala and generous contributions from donors will allow $590,000 in student scholarships to be awarded for the 2017-18 academic year.
BAYTOWN, TX — As hundreds of friends and supporters bid on auction items, enjoyed dinner and listened to stories of student success at the 32nd annual Lee College Foundation Gala last weekend, the foundation announced that proceeds from the fundraising event and contributions from donors will allow $590,000 in scholarships to be awarded to students this academic year.

The awards — $440,000 in endowed scholarships and $150,000 in technical scholarships — will be available to all Lee College students: those enrolled in courses full-time or part-time, in dual-credit classes where high-school students can earn college credits, in non-credit classes offered by the Center for Workforce and Community Development, and in the Huntsville Center correctional education program.

“The Foundation Board of Directors is always focused on helping students succeed, persist and complete their goals for their education,” said Pam Warford, executive director of Foundation and Resource Development, as she addressed gala underwriters, sponsors and guests. “Thank you for helping us to meet their needs.”

After a 20-year battle with drug addiction that kept him cycling in and out of prison, Lee College alumnus Adrian Touchstone welcomed faith into his life and made the decision to take ownership of his actions. A scholarship from the Lee College Foundation helped open the door to higher education and the chance to continue his transformation into a stronger, wiser and better man.

Now pursuing a bachelor’s degree at the University of Houston Clear Lake, Touchstone maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA while at Lee College and graduated in May 2017 with an Associate of Applied Science degree in drug and alcohol abuse counseling. He hopes to be an inspiration and source of encouragement for others facing challenges similar to those he has conquered.

“There have been times in my life that I have been hopeless. I had a backwards way of thinking. Love isn’t supposed to hurt, but selfishness and entitlement caused me to a hurt a lot of people who did love me,” said Touchstone, who shared his story at the gala and drew a standing ovation.

“Life began to change when I figured out I was the problem,” he said. “I began a journey to seek meaning, and this has all been made possible by your generosity. Without your commitment, countless individuals would not have the support they need to have one of the most meaningful experiences of their lives.”

Like Touchstone, many Lee College students would be unable to complete their chosen program without financial assistance from the foundation. For Samantha McDonnel, a teacher education major and mother of two who also works full-time in the Office of Financial Aid, an award from the foundation allowed her to cover tuition after spending the money she saved for her education to repair damage her home sustained during Hurricane Harvey.

“I am thankful for the foundation and to all of its donors for giving,” McDonnel said. “When you donate, you’re investing in someone. You’re investing in your community. You are bridging the gap between what could be and what will be.”

Lee College Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown echoed that sentiment, telling donors and gala guests that their financial support proved their belief in the college and support of its mission to help students create better and brighter futures through quality higher education.

“We have a great opportunity to help students earn the degree or certificate they need to move forward into their careers with the skills, knowledge and ability to perform in any industry,” Brown said. “It’s not enough to get students into Lee College; we have to get them through Lee College.”

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 15 school systems. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

After Harvey postponement, Lee College Foundation ready to host 32nd annual gala

BAYTOWN, TX — After postponing its annual gala in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and making a generous donation to the Lee College Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund to help hundreds of students recover from the storm, the Lee College Foundation is finally ready to host its premiere event that raises much-needed funds for scholarships and other forms of student support.

The 32nd annual Lee College Foundation Gala will be held this Friday, Nov. 10, at Sylvan Beach Pavilion. The gala is highly anticipated each year by Lee College supporters and individual and corporate donors throughout the community, who provide critical financial help to students pursuing a college education while enjoying an evening of dinner and entertainment.

“Many of our students get started on their education but run into financial obstacles that take them off course,” said Pam Warford, executive director of Foundation and Resource Development. “Donations to the foundation enable them to persist in their classes until they earn their degree or certificate. It’s really about persistence.”

With nearly 400 guests in attendance and $175,000 raised, the 31st annual Foundation Gala held last year was an overwhelming success. Despite the difficulties experienced by those hit hardest by Harvey, the Foundation Board of Directors is hopeful this year’s gala will again be one for the record books.

“Our foundation, from the generous support of our gala, creates opportunities for students who may not otherwise have them,” said Jennifer Marcontell, the newly elected chairwoman of the board.

Under the board’s leadership, the foundation awarded more than $470,000 in the 2016-17 academic year to full-time and part-time students, high school students earning college credit in dual-enrollment classes, offenders in the Lee College Huntsville Center correctional education program, and students taking non-credit classes through the Center for Workforce and Community Development. In addition, the foundation maintains a Student Success Fund to help students facing extraordinary circumstances pay for college-related expenses.

“We expect some effects from the recent storm setback, but we know that our patrons look forward to this event each year and will continue to support our efforts as they can,” Marcontell said. “We all benefit when our students succeed.”

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 15 school systems. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Foundation looks to gala to help students persist

Postponed after Harvey, Foundation Gala now set for Nov. 10 at Sylvan Beach Pavilion

BAYTOWN, TX — After making its own generous donation this semester to help Lee College students affected by Hurricane Harvey afford the costs of tuition, textbooks, transportation, food and even home repairs, the Lee College Foundation is preparing to host its annual gala in November and raise funds to ensure students can continue their education and finish what they started.

“Helping our students to recover quickly in order that they may focus on their education is in keeping with our board’s mission,” said Jennifer Marcontell, chairwoman of the Foundation Board of Directors. Board members make decisions for and lead the activities of the foundation, including raising outside funds to fulfill student needs and awarding scholarships to thousands of deserving recipients.

“Our first priority is to our students and their education,” Marcontell said. “Education creates opportunities and opens doors. We want this for as many young people as possible in our community.”

To date, 174 students have received financial assistance from the college’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, established shortly after the storm reached the local area. Contributions from the foundation and corporate and individual donors have been used to pay Fall 2017 tuition bills, purchase textbooks lost or washed away in floodwaters, buy gas or bus fare, and help fix home damages.

“It’s really about persistence,” said Pam Warford, executive director of Foundation and Resource Development. “Many of our students get started on their education but run into financial obstacles that take them off course. Donations to the foundation enable them to persist in their classes until they earn their degree or certificate.”

Now, the board is hoping for another record crowd at the 32nd annual Foundation Gala set for Friday, Nov. 10, at Sylvan Beach Pavilion. The gala, which was initially postponed out of respect for those who suffered losses in Harvey, is the premiere event to raise money each year for scholarships and other forms of student support.

“Our foundation, from the generous support of our gala, creates opportunities for students who may not otherwise have them,” Marcontell said. “We expect some effects from the recent storm setback, but we know that our patrons look forward to this event each year and will continue to support our efforts as they can. We all benefit when our students succeed.”

As chairwoman of the board, Marcontell’s goal is to provide encouragement and experience for her fellow “incredibly hard-working members.” Additional officers also elected to serve in 2017-18 include Judy Wheat as vice-chairwoman and Gilbert Santana as treasurer.

“I believe in education and I believe in Lee College,” Marcontell said. “I believe that the work we do to support our students in receiving an excellent education will benefit our community for generations to come.”

For more information about the foundation or to purchase tickets for the 32nd annual Lee College Foundation Gala, contact Warford at 281.425.6361 or pwarford@lee.edu.

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 15 school systems. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

After Harvey, Lee College Foundation opts to reschedule annual gala for November

BAYTOWN, TX — As residents in the local community continue to recover after Hurricane Harvey, the Lee College Foundation has decided to postpone its 32nd annual gala until November.

Originally scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 21 at Sylvan Beach Pavilion, the Lee College Foundation Gala is now set for Friday, Nov. 10, at the same location. Foundation board members decided to delay the event — which raises money for scholarships and other forms of student support — out of respect for those affected by Harvey and working to rebuild after the storm.

“There are some who were virtually unaffected by Harvey, but there are many that were devastated,” said Pam Warford, executive director of Foundation and Resource Development. “In respect for those who are suffering, we felt that a postponement was in order. We care very much about those with losses, but still know that our mission is to assist students in their pursuit of higher education.”

The foundation will be sending letters about the rescheduled gala to all those who have already received invitations, with additional correspondence to follow. For more information about the Lee College Foundation Gala or donating to the foundation, contact Warford at 281.425.6361 or pwarford@lee.edu.

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 15 school systems. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Lee College Foundation prepares to award fall 2017 scholarships, host annual gala

Foundation relies on individual & corporate donors to support hundreds of worthy students  

Lee College Foundation scholarship recipient Thomas Sweeney
Lee College Foundation scholarship recipient Thomas Sweeney speaks at the annual Foundation Scholarship Breakfast in April about the scholarship awards that enabled him to pursue higher education and enjoy an enriching and rewarding campus experience. All students at Lee College are eligible for foundation scholarships, which are funded through the generosity of private and corporate donors throughout the community.

BAYTOWN, TX — The fall 2017 semester begins next month and the Lee College Foundation is preparing to award scholarships to hundreds of deserving students both new to campus and returning to continue their journey to a degree or certificate.

Many scholarship recipients would be unable to afford tuition, textbooks and other essentials without the generosity of private and corporate donors throughout the community who give to the foundation. Nearly two dozen of the new scholarships to be awarded for 2017 were sponsored by individuals – families, alumni, former employees and friends of the college among them – who believe in the importance of higher education and want to support students in reaching their dreams.

“Individuals and businesses in this community have made life-altering changes for so many of our students by providing them with financial support,” said Pam Warford, executive director of Foundation and Resource Development. “Many students just don’t have the means to pay for college, or they work and go to school simultaneously. For their community college, these advocates for education have enabled students who have the ability and the desire to achieve a degree and create a better life for themselves and for their families. I am so grateful to each of them for their continued support.”

All Lee College students are eligible to receive scholarships, regardless of their program of study or enrollment status. The Foundation Board of Directors awarded more than $470,000 in the 2016-17 academic year to full-time and part-time students, high school students earning college credit in dual-enrollment classes, offenders in the Lee College Huntsville Center correctional education program, and students taking non-credit classes through the Center for Workforce and Community Development. In addition, the foundation maintains a Student Success Fund to help students facing extraordinary circumstances pay for college-related expenses.

Though a straight-A student throughout his career at Dayton High School, Thomas Sweeney arrived at the crossroads between high school and college unsure of which way to go. He knew he could succeed academically, but difficult family circumstances meant he was limited financially. Lee College was his choice for its affordability compared to other options, and he was ultimately awarded the foundation’s Rockwell Fund and Sam Bramlett Memorial scholarships.

“I was raised in a household where I didn’t really have a whole lot of opportunities,” said Sweeney, who shared his story in April at the annual Foundation Scholarship Breakfast, just one semester away from graduation. “My dad worked a job that he didn’t particularly care for and he wasn’t in the best of health, but he persevered because he saw the value of education. That’s why he pushed my sister and I really hard in school to be successful.”

After taking several Lee College Honors Program courses and becoming involved in student organizations on campus, Sweeney was selected to present original research at two academic conferences and said he gained a greater appreciation for thinking critically about the world around him. His “enriching and self-fulfilling experience” in college would likely have been unattainable without foundation support.

“I can honestly say these generous scholarships took quite the weight off my shoulders,” Sweeney said. “It was a very rewarding experience to have my hard work receive recognition so I could continue my educational career with the peace of mind of having my financial needs taken care of. The foundation donors and board have my sincerest and deepest appreciation and respect for their generosity in allowing students like myself, and many other diverse students, the ability to achieve our goals and ambitions.”

Planning is now underway for the 32nd annual Lee College Foundation Gala, which benefits student scholarships and other forms of support. For more information about the gala or giving to the foundation, contact Warford at 281.425.6361 or pwarford@lee.edu.

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 15 school systems. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Warford named Student Success Person of the Year

Award honors Warford’s diligent work to help students overcome financial barriers

Pam Warford selected Student Success Person of the Year
Pam Warford, executive director of the Lee College Foundation and director of Foundation and Donor Development, was honored as Student Success Person of the Year at the May meeting of the Board of Regents for her work to help students overcome financial barriers to their education. Pictured, from left: Executive Vice Pres. Dr. Christina Ponce, Director of Student Success DeDe Griffith, Warford, former Board of Regents Chairman Ronn Haddox, and Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown.

BAYTOWN, TX — Lee College has awarded Pam Warford, executive director of the Lee College Foundation and director of Foundation and Donor Development, the honor of Student Success Person of the Year for her tireless work and continuous efforts to help students overcome financial barriers that might otherwise prevent them from pursuing higher education.

DeDe Griffith, director of Student Success, presented Warford with the award plaque in May during a special presentation at the regular meeting of the Lee College Board of Regents.

“Her heartfelt desire to see students succeed and her diligent work at meeting their financial needs has fostered a culture of caring for students who may not have even attended college had it not been for scholarships,” Griffith said of Warford. “She provides the college with great communication with our external constituents, serves as a legislative liaison for the college, builds relationships and provides a spirit of camaraderie.”

In the nearly two decades she has spent at Lee College, Warford has been instrumental in helping secure funding for scholarships and other forms of support that help students reach their educational goals. With her leadership, the Lee College Foundation Gala raised a record $175,000 in 2016 – dwarfing the $9,800 raised at the gala when Warford arrived at the college in 1999. In addition, the fund balance of the Lee College Foundation increased from $4.7 million to more than $10 million during the same time period. Under the guidance of its Board of Directors, the foundation will award approximately $600,000 to students in the 2017-18 academic year.

When Hurricane Ike struck the Texas Gulf Coast in 2008, Warford created the Student Success Fund to help those facing extraordinary circumstances pay for college-related expenses. She helped implement the first online scholarship application and expanded the types of support and availability of scholarships to ensure all students are eligible for assistance – whether enrolled full-time, part-time, in dual-credit classes for high school students to earn college credits, in non-credit classes offered by the Center for Workforce and Community Development, or in the Lee College Huntsville Center for students incarcerated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Warford also supported the creation of the Britt/Hodgin Second Chance Scholarship benefiting students in the offender education program, and even found funds to purchase uniforms for the Model United Nations student organization to wear in a national competition earlier this year.

Though pleased by how much the college’s resources have grown over the course of her career, Warford gets the most joy from connecting with students and hearing how they were able to pursue their education and achieve their dreams with the support of the foundation and its donors. Receiving the Student Success Person of the Year honor for her work is incredibly humbling, she said.

“Seeing students get excited about their futures is the ultimate gratification,” Warford said. “Their success makes everything we do worthwhile.”

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 15 school systems. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Foundation brings donors together with scholarship recipients

Six people posing, both donors and student recipients
Donors to the Lee College Foundation met the recipients of their scholarships Friday, April 7, 2017, at the 15th annual Foundation Scholarship Breakfast. The annual gathering allows students to share with donors how their generosity has made a difference. Pictured from left: Louise Mann, donor; Drake Salinas, student; Nancy Mann, donor; Denia Aleman, student; Michael Mann, donor; and Claudia Wyles, representing corporate donor Community Resource Credit Union.

For the individuals and businesses that donate to the Lee College Foundation, there is no greater proof of the positive impact of their generosity than meeting and hearing the stories of students awarded tuition and textbook scholarships.

Students like Maryori Portillo, a first-generation college student and recipient of the Wallace Heaner Tuition Scholarship and John and Stella Pepper Textbook Scholarship who had children at a young age and dropped out of high school. After earning her GED and experiencing difficulties in her first try at higher education, Portillo came to Lee College and enrolled in two classes: English and speech. Instructors recognized she had special talent, but the cost of out-of-district tuition and other expenses nearly forced her to quit school after just one semester.

“They immediately saw potential in me that I didn’t see in myself and introduced me to the Honors Program,” Portillo shared April 7 at the 15th annual Foundation Scholarship Breakfast, where donors connected with scholarship recipients and learned firsthand how the funds made a difference in their lives.

“Thanks to the scholarships, I was able to return to school,” she said. “I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to go to sleep without college tuition keeping you up at night. It’s a weight lifted off your shoulders and a worry gone. I would not be standing here without your help.”

Or students like Audra Smith, a process technology major and intern at Chevron Phillips Chemical who received a workforce scholarship from the East Harris County Manufacturers Association (EHCMA). EHCMA donated $170,000 to Lee College this year for student scholarships and other support for craft and technology programs.

A donor and two students stand and pose.
The Lee College Foundation hosted a reception Tuesday, March 28, 2017, for students who received workforce scholarships from the East Harris County Manufacturers Association (EHCMA) to meet managers and other personnel from the association’s member companies. EHCMA donated $170,000 to Lee College this year for student scholarships and other support for craft and technology programs. Pictured (l-r): Jarvis Booker, student; Bear Estrada of Ohmstede; and Tevin Goodman, student.

Just before she started classes, Smith lost her home to a fire and learned her mother had been diagnosed with cancer. Four months into the program, her mother passed away – and soon after, so did her father and grandfather. Knowing she would not have to worry about paying for school helped her persist in the program despite her losses, determined to earn her degree and keep the promises she made to herself and her family.

“Workforce scholarships help us, as students, achieve our greatness,” Smith told managers and leaders from EHCMA’s member companies in late March at a student and donor networking reception hosted by the foundation. “By donating money for these scholarships, you all are changing lives every day.”

Under the leadership of its Board of Directors, the Lee College Foundation has raised outside funds since 1968 to provide for student needs. The fund balance for the foundation now exceeds $10 million and all students are eligible to receive scholarships — those pursuing academic and technical degrees, as well as those enrolled full-time, part-time, in dual-credit classes for high-school students to earn college credits, in non-credit classes offered by the Center for Workforce and Community Development, and in the Lee College Huntsville Center prison program.

Although the foundation has historically focused on accepting scholarship funds, board members consider other worthwhile initiatives that directly affect student success and promote the student’s ability to reach their education goals. To that end, tax-deductible contributions from industry and private donors also support the Student Success Fund, created to help those facing extraordinary circumstances pay for college-related expenses that might otherwise derail their journey.

“One of the most heartwarming things about Lee College is knowing how much this community loves this institution,” said Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown. “The consistent outpouring of generosity helps ensure students can do the three most important things: enroll, persist and graduate. We want them to get here, stay here and leave here with a degree.”

For more information about donating to the Lee College Foundation, contact Executive Director  Pam Warford at 281.425.6361 or pwarford@lee.edu.

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 14 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.