Donor Story: Nancy and Bob DeHart

A NEW SCHOLARSHIP BENEFITS A BELOVED ALMA MATER—ST. ALBANS HIGH SCHOOL.

THE EDUCATION CHAMPIONS

In 2012, Bob and Nancy DeHart found themselves in  Amsterdam, talking with a local  about education. Germany,  Bob learned, recognizes   that not all students are bound for traditional forms of  higher education and instead  emphasize trade schools as an  alternative. “I worked most of my  engineering career in the Middle  East on major energy projects,  and I could see the benefits of  trade skills and how important  they are,” he says. “I dealt with  that on a personal level.” 

So when the chance to give  back to their community while  also offering students the  chance to chase a different  form of higher education, it was  an easy decision. “We don’t  have kids or grandkids, so we  didn’t have kids to put through  school,” says Nancy. “We lucked  out with that, but we feel we still  owe something, and we have  the opportunity to do something  about it.” 

The opportunity first came  around in 2016 after the couple  retired. Having been generous  with their time, skills, and  support in their communities in the past, assisting monetarily seemed like a logical leap.

“We feel we still owe something, and we have the  opportunity to do something about it.”

“We decided to establish a scholarship at WVU Tech for engineering students in West Virginia,” says Bob, an alumni of WVU Tech who received
his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering there in 1972. In a fortuitous twist of fate, one of the first two scholarships awarded ended up with a student from Bob and Nancy’s hometown of St. Albans, West Virginia, who also grew up in First Baptist Church where Bob once attended.

“That was our first active year of giving. Then, we embarked upon a program to do the other three universities,” they share. Those three universities were their other alma maters: Texas A&M University, where Bob received his master’s degree, and the University of Tennessee and the University of Kentucky, where Nancy received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees respectively.

In particular, the DeHarts have a history of giving back to their hometown community, serving as long-time financial contributors to organizations like the Coal River Group to support their work in promoting tourism and river restoration for the Coal River watershed region. So, in 2022, they brought their giving back to high school and established a scholarship fund through The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation in support of St. Albans High School (SAHS), their high school alma mater. “We felt that we got a very good education at Kanawha County Schools in our 12 years,” says Bob. “We go back to all the excellent teachers and positive mentors that we had in St. Albans.”

What surprised the couple the most was the speed at which it turned from a simple notion to an active scholarship, all thanks to the assistance of TGKVF. “We started in early 2022, and two months later, we had a meeting with a draft agreement for discussion.” It happened that quick. “We got results and had a signed agreement by June and could immediately start funding the scholarship. 12 months later—they’re awarding scholarships.” The St. Albans High School Red Dragon scholarship is unique in that, aside from equally benefiting students seeking a traditional four year university and those looking for vocational education, it’s open for all SAHS alumni to donate to, helping fellow Red Dragons achieve their educational goals for the foreseeable future.

The 2023-2024 academic year saw more than $1.5 million dollars of funding going to nearly 500 students around the state—all thanks to the 100+ scholarships available through the Foundation and its donors. The DeHart’s scholarship was one of them. In the 2022-2023 school year, three scholarships were awarded to students from the fund. This summer, they will award five: three scholarship renewals to the previous recipients and two to newly graduating seniors.

In May 2023, after those first few scholarships had been awarded, Bob and Nancy were approached by Larry Ellis, a retired assistant United States prosecuting attorney, friend, and fellow St. Albans alum who was present at the initial meeting in 2022. “He told me, ‘Bob—you wouldn’t believe this, but it’s kind of providential—one of the recipients was from First Baptist Church, and her family really needed the money to get a start in college.’ That was a really ‘feel good’ moment.”

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