As a young student trying to make ends meet, Frank McKay was blown away when a complete stranger donated money to help him finish his college education.
Originally from northeast Louisiana, Frank studied chemical engineering at Mississippi State University because he heard they had a co-op program that enabled students to work their way through college. Then one day, he unexpectedly received a $500 scholarship that paid for half of his expenses at the time.
“I didn’t apply for it. It just fell out of the sky,” said Frank, smiling. “But that single selfless act always left a big impression on me. I never forgot that.”
Years later, he and his wife LaNelle McKay say they are proud to be able to pay it forward through their contributions to the Lee College Foundation. To date, the couple has established five student scholarships through the Foundation.
“Frank and LaNelle McKay don’t contribute to the Foundation just to make a donation; they do it to make a lasting impact in the lives of students,” said Pam Warford, executive director of Lee College Foundation and Resource Development.
“It’s remarkable how much one act of generosity can impact so many lives down the road.”
LaNelle grew up in Highlands and worked at Humble Oil Company while going to Lee College at night. Later she earned her real estate license from Lee College, and today she is one of the leading real estate agents in the Houston area. She was also the first woman to join the Baytown Lions Club over 30 years ago. It was during a weekly Lions Club meeting that the couple first learned about the Lee College Foundation.
“We heard the presentation about supporting the Lee College Foundation, and it just made sense,” said LaNelle. “We wanted to give back to our community, and we felt this was one of the best ways to do it.”
The couple has received thank you notes from students who benefited from their scholarships, and they have the opportunity to meet the students at an annual scholarship breakfast hosted by the Lee College Foundation. Each year at the event, they are impressed by the student speakers when they learn about the many hurdles they had to overcome to become college graduates.
“We’ve seen there are quite a few deserving students graduating from local high schools who come from tough situations, yet they excel in their work ethic, class standing and extra-curricular activities,” Frank said. “They seem to have high goals that could be attained with a little extra help, so it’s an honor for us both to be able to provide that little bit of extra support.”
“I hope it helps someone like I was helped. And maybe they’ll do it, too, one day.”
The Lee College Foundation was established in 1968 to provide financial support for deserving students. Because of the selfless generosity of donors like the McKay family, the Foundation awarded a total of $650,000 in scholarship funds to Lee College students this year.
The Foundation’s annual fundraising gala is on Sept. 27 in LaPorte. The event is by reservation only, and the deadline to buy tickets is Sept. 12. Learn more about the Foundation and how you can help students reach their educational goals by contacting Pam Warford, 281-425-6361, or firstname.lastname@example.org.