(KLTV) - A big announcement Thursday night at Tyler Junior College, in the Gatewood Garden.
The Tyler Junior College Foundation received a significant gift from the estate of Virginia Gatewood, establishing the James F. and Virginia Hawkins Gatewood Memorial Fund.
Mrs. Gatewood passed away in 2017.
They say, it's the largest gift in its history-- the most significant monetary gift from an individual to a Texas community college and largest gift to an institution in the City of Tyler.
The endowment will sustain the Presidential Honors Scholarship program.
The Gatewood's established their first Presidential Scholarship Honors Scholarship endowment at TJC in 2001.
The TJC Presidential Honors Scholarship Program is the College's signature program for attracting academically talented student leaders from throughout East Texas.
In September 2012, TJC Chancellor and CEO Dr. Mike Metke held a meeting regarding his vision for the future of the honors program at TJC, expanding the existing program to a more robust program of civility and high-quality academic experiences for the best academically prepared students.
The redesigned Presidential Honors Program began in fall 2013 and has grown to more than 300 students annually.
Presidential Honors Scholarships are awarded to deserving students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their respective high school classes.
"We look for students who can demonstrate, through writing and involvement, exemplary cognitive skills, academic drive, curiosity and need to achieve," said David Funk, Presidential Honors Program director.
Graduates of the program have gone on to achieve success at schools including Texas A&M's Mays School of Business and aerospace design program as well as engineering, finance and mathematics programs at Baylor University, Sam Houston State University, Texas Christian University, Texas A&M, the University of Houston, UT Austin, UT Tyler and Whitworth College in Washington State.
"Mrs. Gatewood discovered that nothing so close could take young people so far in life. She loved seeing them develop their full potential and realized that her donations to TJC were incredibly cost effective. It was her desire to change lives now and forever and that's what will happen through her generosity," Metke said.
Over the years, the Gatewoods had contributed more than $775,000 to TJC, funding 10 endowed scholarships and numerous annual scholarships.
After Jim Gatewood's death in 2001, Virginia Gatewood continued his legacy of giving to TJC and endowed several scholarships in honor of prominent individuals whom she and Jim admired, including: U.S. District Judge William Steger, Dr. Ben and Maytee Fisch, Patsy Clyde, James Wynne Jr., Mary John Spence, Dr. Harold Cameron and others.
"Jim and Virginia Gatewood were always faithful supporters of TJC students," said Mitch Andrews, executive director of the TJC Foundation. "Prior to this gift, 126 students received scholarships as a direct result of their generosity. Even in Mrs. Gatewood's final years, she was known for taking a personal interest in the scholarship recipients, often meeting with students in her home to learn about their lives, college experiences and plans for the future."
In honor of her late husband's love of gardening, she provided a significant gift in 2005 to create the Gatewood Garden located behind TJC's iconic Jenkins Hall.
In 2010, when she was awarded TJC Alumni Association's "Black and Gold Award" to recognize her generosity to the College, Mrs. Gatewood said she viewed the couple's contributions to the TJC scholarship programs as "giving a helping hand so that others can help themselves."
"The Gatewoods' gift is largely designated for Presidential Honors scholarships and reflects their confidence in the quality education that students receive at TJC," Andrews said. "We know our community realizes the value of TJC and we hope the Gatewoods' gift to the Presidential Honors Program will encourage others to support TJC students as we seek to fund scholarships for the new TJC Promise."
The TJC Promise is a distinct, "first of its kind" program for the region that guarantees scholarships to students within the College's tax district who, during their freshman year in high school, commit to academic achievement, persistence and community service and maintain those standards throughout their high school years. The Promise program, by instilling a college-going culture early on, will impact the lives and futures of students and the East Texas community for generations to come. Contributions to the TJC Promise are establishing a dedicated endowed fund to support the Promise program. The fund will provide scholarships in perpetuity to students entering TJC beginning fall of 2020.