On what has become known as Giving Tuesday, State Fair Community College thanked the community for its support by announcing major financial contributions to the college. In return, college officials announced plans to continue to give back to students and the community through the building of the Olen Howard Workforce Innovation Center.

A large audience of state and local elected officials and business, industry and educational leaders were present as SFCC President Dr. Joanna Anderson made the official announcement that the City of Sedalia on behalf of the college has been awarded a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant by the Missouri Department of Economic Development. In addition, the SFCC Foundation has been approved to receive Neighborhood Assistance Program tax credits through the Workforce Training Initiative in the amount of $250,000 in 50% tax credits.

Following the awarding of the grants, Darlene Bradbury and Shirley Rowden on behalf of their family announced a major contribution to the proposed Workforce Innovation Center that will bear the name of their father, Olen Howard.

Although a specific dollar amount for the donation was not made public, SFCC Foundation Executive Director Mary Treuner noted it is the “largest single gift the Foundation has received.”

“The Olen Howard family has made a significant gift to the college to support the workforce initiative and to help create a facility that will be impactful to many generations in our future,” Treuner told the Democrat. “I’m sure that Olen would be very proud of his daughters Darlene and Shirley’s decision to leave this legacy to our community.”

In his remarks prior to the announcement by the family, Gov. Mike Parson referenced the “outstanding community” of Sedalia and Pettis County noting “all of the hard work and generous people in this community.”

“We have always been given opportunities by those who have come before us,” Parson said. “They are the reasons we have the opportunities that are before us now.”

Parson challenged those present to give back to the next generation, adding future generations will need more than a high school degree to succeed and compete. 

He said community colleges have played a key role in the state’s workforce development plans, one of his main focus areas as governor. Parson said it is time the colleges and others “step up their game. We have a lot of work before us.”

Anderson in her remarks expressed her belief that SFCC is ready to meet those demands.

“The new Workforce Innovation Center is a part of our larger effort to create a Center for Excellence in Advanced Manufacturing and Automation Training that will serve the entire region,” Anderson commented. “Throughout our history, State Fair Community College has responded to the region’s workforce needs.

“Our first technical trades programs, automotive and welding, were started in 1971 with a state grant when Sedalia faced a workforce shortage of trained mechanics,” she explained. “Nearly 50 years later, we are responding to current state and local workforce demands …”

The proposed $9 million facility will be built on the grounds of the original college’s buildings once known as “Plywood U” and will house the college and CTC’s welding and precision machine programs.

“This is an exciting announcement for SFCC and the surrounding area,” state Rep.  Brad Pollitt, R-Sedalia, said following the presentation. “The master plan fits perfectly into Gov. Parson’s Workforce Development Plan. There is still work that needs to be done on both the state and local level to see the fulfillment of this vision.”  

Fulfilling a vision for others is something Olen Howard was noted for throughout his career, according to SFCC Foundation President Joe Fischer.

“This is such an aptly named opportunity to name the facility for Olen,” Fischer told the Democrat. “Olen was a great man who worked so hard to give back to the community that had always supported him. Today with the generous donation by the Howard family is a perfect example of why giving should be done.”

Those opportunities for giving will continue as SFCC moves into its next 50 years, according to Board President Randall Eaton.

In his introduction of Parson, Eaton thanked the governor for his commitment to helping others through a number of programs available at State Fair.

“We applaud your push for the Fast Tract Workforce Incentive Grant helping adults 25 and older skill-up for high demand jobs,” Eaton said. Thank you for supporting the MoExcels Workforce Initiative.

“SFCC was a recipient in round one and our proposal for round two is top on the list for budget considerations,” Eaton added. “SFCC’s LearningForce is excited to provide customized training through the Missouri One Start Program. These workforce initiatives greatly benefit companies and people in our service region.”

Margie Davis, the wife of SFCC’s first president, Fred Davis, told the Democrat how pleased Davis would be if he were alive today.

“Fred would be overwhelmed, so grateful and proud,” she said. “He admired Olen Howard very much and would say ‘thank you.’

“Fred would always say, ‘don’t ever forget about the future generations – educate them for the future.’”

Education Reporter

Hope Lecchi is the education reporter for the Democrat, covering all things education in Sedalia and Pettis County, as well as providing general assignment and feature coverage. She can be reached at 660-530-0144.

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