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SMC establishes Westrate endowment

Published 10:16am Wednesday, September 11, 2013

An endowment honoring lifelong Cassopolis resident and longtime Dowagiac city attorney Mark A. Westrate has been established to benefit Cass County high school students attending Southwestern Michigan College, SMC President David Mathews announced Tuesday.

Westrate, known for his devotion to community service, died Aug. 13.

He exhibited his belief in the value of education in many ways, including serving on SMC’s Foundation Board from 1993 until his death.

Roosevelt Thomas, an attorney with Warner Norcross and Judd, LLP, in Grand Rapids, was a friend of Westrate’s since childhood.

The friends both completed law degrees at the University of Notre Dame and later practiced law together under the name of Westrate and Thomas.

“Both of us grew up in large families,” said Thomas, reflecting on their Cass County roots.

“For both of us, education was the vehicle that changed who and what we were to become.”

Thomas said Westrate’s wife, Joan, expressed her sincere gratitude and thanks to those who donated to the endowment in memory of her husband.

She said Mark would have been honored and humbled by such a tribute that will help to provide educational opportunities for college-bound students from his home county.

“The principal of the fund will always remain in perpetuity” said Eileen Toney, executive director of the SMC Foundation and director of development at the college. “Subsequent contributions to this restricted scholarship will be matched up to $25,000 per fiscal year with 80 percent of the earnings to be used to fund a student scholarship that will be available for disbursement in 2016.”

The SMC Foundation accepts contributions to existing scholarships such as Westrate’s in addition to establishing new scholarships.

“Seventy percent of our students are financial needy. That’s seven out 10 of our students that have a real significant financial need,” said Mathews. “Endowments and scholarship funds such as the Mark A. Westrate endowment insure that students will have access to a college education.”

Donations to this endowment may be directed to SMC Foundation, Director of Development, 58900 Cherry Grove Road, Dowagiac, MI 49047.

For more information, contact Toney at 269-782-1301, etoney@swmich.edu.

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