Each year about 350 students at Central Lakes College receive approximately $400,000 in scholarships from the CLC Foundation.
As the college continues to experience record growth - spring enrollment was up 21 percent from last spring - the nonprofit foundation's role in providing scholarships to students becomes even more critical.
Diane Scearcy, who has served as executive director for the Central Lakes College Foundation for the past 10 years, will retire April 30. The foundation provides about $400,000 in scholarships to about 350 CLC students each year, thanks to generous donors, including those listed on the "Tree of Giving" on display near the college bookstore.
Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
Diane Scearcy, the foundation's executive director for the past 10 years, plans to retire later this month. Her last day is April 30. Scearcy said she hopes the next director hired by the board takes the organization even further, by finding larger donors willing to step up and provide funding for scholarships to accommodate the influx of students now attending CLC and those who have yet to walk through the campus doors.
"The demand for scholarships is great," said Scearcy. "The college is growing, especially with the economy, people are desperate to return to college and be retrained."
Scearcy herself is a CLC graduate. She graduated from the former Brainerd Community College, now CLC, in 1994, right beside her daughter, Kim. She then went on to earn her bachelor's degree in organizational management from Concordia University in St. Paul. She has spent the last 21 years working at CLC. She was hired in December 1989 to work in the accounting department, then registrar's office and then transferred to the admissions office in 1996 when the Brainerd and Staples technical colleges merged with BCC to form CLC.
When Rich Byerly was hired on an interim basis for two years to merge all three college foundations, Scearcy was asked to serve as administrative assistant. Byerly recommended Scearcy for the permanent position and she's been with the foundation ever since, raising funds and helping the board develop its bylaws and policies. The foundation raises about $300,000 to $350,000 annually and has raised more than $3 million in the past 10 years. The foundation has about $4.1 million in assets.
"It's all about building relationships," Scearcy said of the foundation's role. "It's the most important thing we do because those relationships bring in bigger and better things."
Scearcy is proud of the employee fund, which allows CLC employees to have donations to the foundation taken out of their paychecks. More than 65 percent of CLC employees participate and have provided more than $75,000 in donations since its implementation in 2001.
"I think that says something about the support we have from within the campus," said Scearcy.
The foundation also has a Random Acts of Kindness fund, or RAK fund. If a student is in a tough situation - needs a car battery in order to get to college or help buying books - the counseling department will recommend that student for a RAK grant. The fund was started in 2005 with a $25,000 donation from a special donor in the community.
Last June Scearcy lost her brother to a sudden heart attack at the age of 49. It was a turning point in her life.
"I realized life is short and we need to take advantage of the good years we have left," said Scearcy.
As a result, Scearcy told the board nine months ago of her plans to retire so they could search for her replacement. Scearcy said she'll miss the friendships she's forged with facility, staff and students but felt it was time.
Five years ago, Scearcy and her husband, Lowell, purchased a cabin on Madeline Island in LaPointe, Wis. She is looking forward to spending more time there and wants to buy a scooter to get around the island. She said she has a large stack of books she's been meaning to read and she wants to enroll in yoga classes. She is a member of the Brainerd Lions, Sunrise Sertoma Club, Nisswa Women's Club, Bethany Good Samaritan and St. Joseph's Medical Center auxiliaries and has had the same Kinship Partner for the past five years. She plans to remain active during retirement and said she likely will continue to volunteer during retirement, perhaps helping with fundraising events. Her mother is 91 and lives at Edgewood Vista and she plans to spend more time visiting with her, too.
"I think it's going to be great, a little work, a little play," Scearcy said with a smile.
The Scearcys have a son and a daughter.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
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