Pair's grand gift to college

Couple's donation to CCC to help with arts center project

They gave $672,000

Philanthropy kept secret until deaths

March 12, 2001|By Jamie Manfuso | Jamie Manfuso,SUN STAFF

During their lifetimes, Robert and Phyllis Scott were visible leaders in the Carroll County community. They were civil rights advocates, Democratic Party leaders and promoters of local business.

But acts of philanthropy, such as patronizing local artists, the Scotts often kept to themselves.

One of the last beneficiaries of the Scotts' quiet generosity was Carroll Community College, where a $13.1 million fine arts, business and fitness complex is under construction and scheduled to open a year from now. The Scotts contributed $672,000 to the project - proceeds from enrolling nearly their entire 135-acre farm outside Westminster into a state land preservation program, then selling the property.

It is by far the largest contribution to the Westminster college, and the donation made the community college eligible for an additional $200,000 in state matching funds for the project.

Most of the Scotts' gift will go toward a 40,000-square- foot fine arts and business building. A 20,000-square- foot fitness and recreation building is part of the complex.

The Scotts weren't publicly connected to the gift until their names were announced at a groundbreaking ceremony in October. By that time, both had died; Robert in January 1999 at age 80, and Phyllis in September last year at age 84.

"We had no idea until very near the end of their lives about their monetary contributions," said Janet Colburn of New Windsor, the couple's niece and a member of the CCC board of trustees

The Scotts' donation is especially large for a community college with an endowment of $1.1 million. Instead of giving to the endowment, however, the Scotts gave directly to the college to make it eligible for matching funds.

Meeting needs

Although the complex would have been built without the Scotts' contribution, their donation has allowed the college to make the new building top-notch.

Of their contribution, $300,000 will go toward sound and performance lighting systems in the fine and performing arts center's 425-seat theater. That money also will help purchase a high-quality curtain over the stage.

"They saw an opportunity to help us provide things for the center that otherwise would not have been available without the contribution," said Alan Schuman, the college's executive vice president of administration. "It would have taken us many years to come up with that $300,000."

Recognizing the couple's generosity, the college has decided to name the fine and performing arts center after the Scotts.

Another $400,000 - $200,000 from the Scotts and the state's matching funds - will go toward purchasing computer hardware and other technology for the business and industry training center, six classrooms adjoining the fine arts complex, and for campus computer labs.

When completed, the arts and business building will embody two of the Scotts' passions: the arts and technology.

People who visited the Scotts at their home in the woods outside Westminster remember it was filled with contemporary art and classical music.

They also recall Robert Scott's avid interest in technology.

A president of Beacon Steel Products in Westminster, he also created small robots and primitive computers from old parts.

The Scotts didn't have children, but took an active interest in the education of their five nieces and five nephews. "Uncle Bob knew about computers and computer science long before most of us did, and saw the future in that," said Colburn, 57. "And he made sure we were in on it."

Phyllis Scott was an active volunteer in many organizations, including Carroll County Arts Council, Carroll County League of Women Voters, and the American Association of University Women.

Although the Scotts' donation pales in comparison with contributions made to other community colleges and to large universities, it remains a sizable amount for a two-year institution.

"When we get a gift of $672,000, it makes a huge impact on the institution," said Jacqueline Harrington, executive director of the college's foundation.

Unique fund raising

The amount the Scotts gave and the way it was given has impressed college officials.

Of their total contribution, more than $408,000 was from enrolling 133 acres of their farmland into the Maryland Land Preservation Program, which pays rural landowners not to develop their property.

They then raised more than $263,000 in August 2000 when they sold their farm.

"The technique of preserving the agricultural land while giving the gift to the community is unique," Harrington said.

Funds left over from the Scotts' donation will be used at the discretion of the college's board of trustees.

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