GOSHEN — With the support of a long-time friend, Ivy Tech Community College is launching a capital campaign which advocates say will brighten Elkhart County’s future and strengthen its economic backbone of manufacturing.
During a press conference Thursday, Thomas G. Coley, chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College North Central Region, announced the start of fundraising to help build a World Class Advanced Lean Manufacturing Training Center on the Elkhart Campus. The state-of-the-art facility will teach current and future residents the skills they need to do the increasingly high-tech manufacturing jobs.
Assisting with the beginning of the campaign are Mervin D. Lung and his wife, Dorothy. They have issued a challenge to the Elkhart County community to contribute $4.5 million as a starter fund for the new center.
Elkhart County Councilman John Letherman said a place dedicated to teaching advanced manufacturing skills is something the community has needed for a long time. It will create a workforce that will entice new companies to locate operations here as well as help fill some of the current jobs now going wanting for workers.
“For folks already here, this creates a pool of talent that we need pretty badly right now,” Letherman said. “They’re all saying, ‘Workforce, workforce, workforce.’ If properly put together and managed well (the new center) will seriously help us.”
Along with helping launch the capital campaign for the advanced manufacturing center, the Lungs endowed their namesake scholarship with a gift of $4.1 million. This will allow the financial assistance especially for Ivy Tech students to continue for generations to come.
At the announcement of the additional scholarship money, the crowd gathered in the Community Room on the Elkhart Campus erupted with a hearty applause.
“This is truly an exciting time for us and Ivy Tech and the Elkhart community,” Coley beamed.
GIFTS FOR ELKHART COUNTRY
The Lungs have been generous supporters of Ivy Tech for many years. They were not able to attend Thursday announcement but officials from the school and the county praised their efforts on behalf of the institution.
Mervin Lung was the former owner of Patrick Industries, a major supplier to the recreational vehicle and manufactured housing industries. His friend and fishing buddy Tom Corson attended the press conference and afterward highlighted the Lungs’ continuous work to provide educational opportunities to young adults.
Corson, one of the founders of the RV company Coachmen, donated a substantial portion of the land on which the new campus sits.
Of his and Lung’s gifts, Corson said, “It says we share some of the fruits of our labors and success of all our employees.”
The Lung Scholarship provides tuition discount of $35 per credit hour to Elkhart County residents who do not qualify for education grants or subsidized student loans. It was established in 1987 as part of the couple effort to give Ivy Tech a permanent home in Elkhart County.
“They recognized even if someone is making too much money, the costs (of attending college) could still be prohibitive,” said Tracie Davis, spokeswoman for Ivy Tech. “They wanted to make it as affordable as possible for residents of Elkhart County.”
Ruben Cervantes Jr., a general studies major at Ivy Tech, credits the Lung Scholarship with enabling him to get a college education. The 27-year-old decided to return to school so he could make a larger contribution to society but he worried about the money required to cover tuition and books.
The Lung gift eased the financial burden on Cervantes who will be a first time father this September.
“I was pleasantly surprised there was a generous family willing to invest in my education,” he said. “I stand here today as a very grateful recipient of their generosity.”
A PERMANENT HOME
Mervin and Dorothy Lung started their scholarship more than two decades ago when they gave Ivy Tech Community College a permanent home in Elkhart County. The school had been offering classes in the area since the mid-1970s but initially it had to carve out space in local high schools.
In 1987 as the community was working to find a place where Ivy Tech could put down roots, Lung stepped forward and purchased the former Lands Motor Co. building on the corner of Industrial Parkway and Collins Road in Elkhart. He refurbished it then placed it in a trust with the Elkhart County Community Foundation and rented it to the college. Proceeds from the rent went to fund the Lung Scholarship.
Since the scholarship was established, more than $2 million in tuition assistance has been awarded to Elkhart County students, according to Ivy Tech.
Now that Ivy Tech has relocated to a campus at 22531 C.R. 18, rent money is no longer flowing in to support the scholarship. Consequently, the Lungs made the $4.1 million gift to ensure financial help will be available for the generations of students to come.
“It’s not as much about a financial contribution,” said Tom Kilian, executive director for resource development at Ivy Tech. “This is their commitment to higher education and their commitment to Elkhart County being able to train and education its residents and to make a difference now.”
School officials and community leaders had eyed the former Ivy Tech building as a place for the new advanced manufacturing center, Davis said. However, the site’s distance from the main campus and the cost of duplicating services made it less than the ideal place.
Backers of the project wanted the center on the C.R. 18 property. The $4.5 million will cover about a third of the estimated total of $15 million. The remainder will likely be funded through bonds, Davis said.
Coley hopes to raise the money in one year and then begin the design phase with a groundbreaking following in 2014.