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A Spirit of Giving in the McKearn Family

March 31, 2021

This past weekend Donna McKearn would have celebrated her 88th birthday. Donna, a longtime resident of Beloit, spent her life nurturing and caring for children. Therefore, her own children thought it was fitting to celebrate her legacy in our community with the Donna McKearn Memorial Endowed Scholarship at Blackhawk Technical College. According to her son, Tim McKearn of Beloit, "My mom loved children and spent many years working with infants, young children, and their families. We wanted to provide support to individuals wishing to pursue careers in childcare or early childhood work."

Once her children had all started school, Donna approached her husband about entering the workforce. After some compromise, she found a position conducting home visits for Head Start. The job allowed her to see her children off to school each morning, be home at lunchtime, and back in time each afternoon to welcome the children home. Donna passed away in 2008. At that time, the family made several gifts in the community to honor her memory, but they always knew they wanted to do more.

Her life and career were spent loving and nurturing children, so when Tim proposed the scholarship opportunity to his siblings, they were enthusiastically on board. Tim's siblings include Cyndy Bowles (Saucier, MS), Colleen Woods (Eolia, MO), Mike McKearn (Beloit, WI), and Frank McKearn (Beloit, WI). In addition, most of Donna's 15 grandchildren ranging in age from 14 to 43, have also contributed to the scholarship fund.

Lisa Hurda, BTC Director of Advancement and Foundation, said, “We are grateful to the McKearn Family for trusting the Foundation with this life-changing gift that will benefit early childhood education students for years to come.”

Tim McKearn wearing a mask

When asked, why Blackhawk? Tim replied, "My year working at BTC made a profound impact on me. I met so many dedicated professionals amongst the faculty and administration and developed close friendships that literally changed my life."

Tim served as the Blackhawk Technical College Foundation Director from 2018-2019 when an unexpected cancer diagnosis sidelined him. While his time at BTC was cut short, the experience had a profound impact on Tim. "Everyone was so welcoming to me. The friendships that I made at BTC have helped sustain me this last year and a half," explained Tim.

"We could have established this scholarship in a number of places but setting it up at BTC was my way of acknowledging the respect I developed for everyone I encountered at BTC and to thank them for everything they did and will continue to do," continued Tim.

Tim was recently able to surprise some of his BTC colleagues with this announcement. There wasn't a dry eye in the room as Tim, accompanied by his brother Frank and wife Debbie, described his experience at BTC and his mother, both inspirations for this new scholarship opportunity at Blackhawk.

With their gift, the McKearns are creating an opportunity to transform lives in our community. "This gift will impact generations to come," explained BTC President Tracy Pierner. "This endowment will impact not only the student, but also their families, and the lives of the students they will go on to serve through a rewarding career in early childhood education."

Creating the endowment was an easy choice for Tim and his family, and it was a simple process to navigate. Tim's relationship with Blackhawk and this endowment get to the core of the College's mission of a supportive environment. Tim found love and support at Blackhawk and is merging that experience with his mother's lifetime commitment to early childhood education to create a lasting legacy through the Donna McKearn Memorial Endowed Scholarship.

Tim encourages others in the community to follow his lead. "I believe that the BTC story deserves the support of everyone throughout Rock and Green counties and hope that in some small way that this scholarship will nudge people to get more familiar with the BTC story and consider creating scholarships of their own. The process was easy and had flexibility. My family feels joyful about this partnership with BTC."

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About BTC Foundation Scholarships

Each year, more than 100 students receive financial assistance through scholarships administered by the BTC Foundation. Students receiving scholarships are committed to achieving personal and professional success through education and training at Blackhawk Technical College. Every student is encouraged to complete the Scholarship Application. Some scholarships await applicants from particular fields of study or geographic areas. Others are intended to help people overcome personal or financial hardship. Whatever the circumstances, every student is encouraged to complete the Blackhawk Technical College Foundation Scholarship Application and Scholarship Recommendation forms. The application deadline for the fall semester is April 15. Apply today at https://blackhawk.edu/About/Foundation/Foundation-Scholarships.
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