Aerial view of the Dowagiac campus

Accoe family endows agricultural scholarships

11/01/2019 - 8am

A $10,000 gift to Southwestern Michigan College created the Accoe Family Endowment honoring a prominent Wayne Township farm family while benefiting agricultural students with scholarships.

Renewable scholarships from the $8,000 endowment portion of the gift will be awarded starting in Fall 2020. Recipients must maintain at least a 2.0 grade-point average.

The other $2,000 is earmarked for four one-time $500 scholarships evenly disbursed between Spring 2019 (Jonathan Tharp), Fall 2019 (Nathaniel Mortimore), Spring 2020 and Fall 2020.

“I have known the Accoes for a number of years and am extremely appreciative of their loyalty and support for SMC,” Foundation President Dr. Carole Schmidt said.

Richard J. “Butch” Accoe, a three-term Cass County commissioner in the late 1990s and early 2000s, wanted to recognize his parents, Marcellus Highway dairy farmers Richard M. and Pauline Accoe.

The Accoes were united in South Bend on Feb. 19, 1944, and were married for 64 years until he died at 87 on March 28, 2008. She passed away Sept. 25, 2017, at 93.

“They worked hard all their lives,” the oldest of their four children said. “Mom was a 4-H leader for about 40 years. Dad was a dairy leader and on the fair board.” He was also on the Michigan Holstein Association board and advised FFA and 4-H.

The Cass County Fair celebrated Pauline as “Homemaker of the Year” in 1993.

“The first year we were at the Cass fair was 1956,” Accoe said. “She was there the last year before she died to watch grandkids and great-grandkids show. My dad talked about walking behind a plow with a horse as a kid, getting an acre a day.”

Accoe and his wife, Lynn, both earned SMC associate degrees. He studied accounting, taking advantage of a retraining program when Sundstrand left Dowagiac. She studied medical management and worked for a doctor’s office in Paw Paw. They met in 4-W 4-H and have been married for 55 years.

“My brother, Mike, took his first two years here, then transferred to Michigan State University. Two of my (four) daughters graduated from SMC and a third took some classes.” Accoe grandchildren have also attended SMC.
Accoe was in Dowagiac’s Class of 1963, the second graduated from Union High School. His other siblings are Kathrine, who taught elementary school for LaVille for 36 years, and Dave. Mike, Kathrine and Dave each has three children.

“All three of us boys were in FFA,” he said. “Mike was a state officer. I was a regional officer. There are a lot of girls in the family, but I’ve got five great-grandsons. The sixth should be here next month.”

Accoe’s farm operated from Twin Lakes Road, though “I rented a lot of ground. At one time I was farrowing 500 sows outside. I farmed fulltime for 10 years, until ’97. Even when I got out, I did grain farming and had some cows. I also worked in a doctor’s office, like my wife, for about five years when I was county commissioner, then sold real estate for 10 years until I retired.”

SMC’s foundation accepts contributions to existing scholarships in addition to establishing new scholarships. Direct donations to: SMC Foundation, Director of Development, 58900 Cherry Grove Road, Dowagiac, MI 49047. Contact Nate Swords at (269) 782-1301 or nswords@swmich.edu for more information.