$2.63 Million Gifted to E.C.C.C


MERIDIAN, Miss. – (PRESS RELEASE) Scholarships will be available for qualified high school graduates who reside in the five-county service area of East Central Community College (ECCC) in 2014-15, thanks to a generous donation from an alumna who included the College in her estate planning.

The estate of Frances Gaines Blum Slagle, a 1940 ECCC graduate and former Decatur resident, recently presented the ECCC Foundation with approximately $2.68 million in cash, stocks, and certificates of deposit to be used to establish student scholarships. This gift represents the largest single donation ever received by the institution and one of the largest gifts ever received by a community college in the state of Mississippi.

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ECCC President Dr. Billy W. Stewart made the announcement during a press conference held today (Tuesday, Oct. 9) in the Thrash Auditorium, located in Newton Hall on the Decatur campus. The press conference was broadcast live on the College’s Web site (www.eccc.edu) and at various video-conferencing sites throughout the ECCC district.

Dr. Stewart announced that $50,000 will be used to endow the Willis E. Blum and Frances Blum Slagle Scholarship, and the remaining $2.63 million will be used to endow the Children of Andrew Gaines and Inez Gaines: Marjorie Mansfield, Mary George Pace, Frances Gaines Blum Slagle, Virginia Gaines Smith and Geneva Gaines Boring Tuition Guarantee Scholarship.

Details for both scholarships are currently being developed, but Dr. Stewart stated interest earned from the $2.63 million contribution will be used to guarantee tuition for the freshman year – currently $940 per semester – for high school graduates who reside in Leake, Neshoba, Newton, Scott and Winston counties and enroll as freshman students at ECCC the fall semester immediately following high school graduation. The tuition guarantee scholarship is slated to begin in the Fall of 2014 and will be used to “complete” the cost of tuition for the Fall and Spring semesters of the freshman year at ECCC.

ECCC’s eighth president further explained how the funds will be utilized.

“Details are still being worked out, but the tuition guarantee scholarship will ensure that tuition for a high school graduate residing in one of our five counties and enrolling at ECCC the fall semester immediately following high school graduation will be covered for the Fall and Spring semesters of his/her freshman year,” he stated. “I should emphasize that funds from the endowment will be used to complete the cost of tuition for students, or serve as a ‘gap-filler’ scholarship. In other words, if a student is already receiving $940 or more through grants, other scholarships, and/or state or federal financial aid, then the tuition guarantee scholarship will not provide funding for that student. However, if a student receives less than $940 in funding from other sources, then the guarantee tuition scholarship will provide the difference between the funds received and the amount needed to pay for tuition.” Dr. Stewart also explained, “We hope to have details of the scholarship solidified soon, and once that is done, those details will be released to the general public in the college’s service area.”

Although the tuition guarantee scholarship currently will only apply to qualified high school graduates who reside in Leake, Neshoba, Newton, Scott and Winston counties and enroll as freshman students at ECCC the fall semester immediately following high school graduation, Dr. Stewart said efforts are under way to “permanently provide the cost of tuition” for our district students.

“We plan to meet with our local elected officials, area businesses and industries, and other individuals in hopes of making the tuition guarantee scholarship available on a permanent basis and to more residents of our five counties,” said Dr. Stewart.

During his remarks, Dr. Stewart also mentioned how he was first informed of the generous gift to the college following a conversation with Mrs. Slagle’s niece, Carole Pace Henry of Madison, MS, a 1957 ECCC graduate, who was recently honored as ECCC’s Alumna of the Year, in recognition of “outstanding achievement, loyalty and service to East Central Community College.”

“Carole informed me that ‘Aunt Fran’ (as she was commonly referred) loved EC and was a warm, kind and generous woman. I certainly think all those qualities are demonstrated through this substantial gift to the Foundation. I am confident that many students will be presented the opportunity to continue his/her education at ECCC because of the generosity of Aunt Fran. What a wonderful legacy to leave,” said Dr. Stewart.

Slagle died at age 94 on May 11, 2012, in Evans, GA. A “Celebration of Life” service was held in the Georgia Room of Brandon Wilde Life Care Community in Evans.

She owned and operated Carlson Travel Agency in Sebring, Fla. She enjoyed traveling and lived in various places around the world, including Germany, Jamaica, Japan and Panama.

She was preceded in death by her first husband, Lt. Col. Willis Eugene Bill Blum, and her second husband, Capt. Lowell E. Woody Slagle. Both men are buried at Arlington National Cemetery in recognition of their outstanding military service. Mrs. Slagle was recognized as a “Gold Star” wife and was instrumental in obtaining retirement benefits for wives of servicemen killed in action. She too was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

She was also preceded in death by a stepson, Capt. Lowell Elwood “Woody” Slagle Jr. and a grandson, David Blum.

Survivors include her son, Charles F. Blum; daughter, Deborah Kay Stamper; stepson, Thomas D. Slagle and his wife, Jackie: stepdaughter, Sandra S. Slagle; step-daughter-in-law, Betty Slagle; two grandchildren, Morgan Wooton and Lisa Moschin; two great-grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews, including Libby M. Wynn, Gloria M. Miller and Carole Pace Henry.

A Minter City, MS, native, Slagle attended Decatur High School and continued her education at then East Central Junior College, where she was a member of the “Warriorette” basketball squad. She also attended Clarke-Venable Baptist Church in Decatur. She received a degree in travel administration from Columbia University in Columbia, MO.

For more information on the Guaranteed Tuition Scholarship, contact ECCC Student Services, 601-635-6205 or call toll free, 877-462-3222, ext. 205. The e-mail address is rlee@eccc.edu.