Aerial view of the Dowagiac campus

St. Denys ‘Foundation of Year’

11/16/2017 - 4pm
Vonda Marrow, Charmaine Torma

St. Denys Foundation on National Philanthropy Day Nov. 15 received the Corporate/Foundation Philanthropist of the Year award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), Michiana Chapter.

AFP’s 17th annual Salute to Philanthropy awards luncheon, celebrating the philanthropic spirt of the Michiana community, took place at South Bend’s Hilton Garden Inn Gillespie Conference Center and also honored Larry Sehy as Volunteer Fundraiser and Pat Ruszkowski as Individual Philanthropist.

Established almost 30 years ago in 1988, St. Denys Foundation focuses on meeting area needs for higher education, arts and art education programs, Christian agencies and health and hospice programs.

St. Denys has a long philanthropic history supporting Southwestern Michigan College through annually funding scholarships and providing funding for Steve’s Run, which divides proceeds between Mayo Clinic for cancer research and the Steven Briegel Memorial Scholarship.

This year Steve’s Run raised $10,000.

Scholarship dollars directed to SMC surpass $372,000, allowing many financially needy students to obtain college degrees.

In addition to funding SMC scholarships and Steve’s Run, St. Denys has a history in financially supporting other Cass County events, including Dowagiac’s Dogwood Fine Arts Festival, Dowagiac Athletic Boosters and the Candlelight Christmas parade, scheduled this year for 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1.

SMC Director of Development Eileen Toney, AFP 2017 Communications Vice President, nominated St. Denys for recognition.

Cass District Library nominated Sehy for more than 17 years of volunteer fundraising.

He rallied a group of friends and community leaders to form a Friends of the Howard Branch group. Sehy donated $5,000, challenging the community to match his contribution so an abandoned Niles church could be converted into a library branch.

Previous locations going back to 1966 included the basement of the township hall until 1999, then the Howard-Ellis School grounds and the former township police department.
The library in November 2000 purchased five acres on Yankee Street where the 3,200-square-foot building is located.

Sehy has also provided fundraising assistance to Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Berrien and Cass counties, Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project, International Partners in Mission, Niles-Buchanan YMCA and the Underground Railroad Society of Cass County.

He is also a “Tuesday morning lady” at Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve in Buchanan Township, carrying on his late wife Kathy’s gardening tradition.
The entry garden and native plant garden near Fernwood’s entrance are dedicated to her.

Family and Children’s Center (FFC) nominated Ruszkowski, who began his business career in 1972 as a software developer and rose to Carleton Inc. president and CEO since April 1991.

Under his leadership, Carleton transformed from a financial publisher into a financial software company serving national vendors in banking, credit union and auto lending industries.

As a Family and Children’s Center board member, Ruszkowksi made a major donation to support the building of a Boys and Girls Club on Sample Street in 1994.

He and his company have given Family and Children’s Center almost $85,000. He served his most recent term as FCC chairman in 2012-13.

Keynote speaker Angela White, Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) and CEO of Johnson Grossnickle and Associates (JGA), a philanthropy consulting company in Indianapolis, highlighted Hall of Fame philanthropists who “changed the world” since the 1800s — Mary Garrett, benefactor of higher education for women; Eli Lilly, whose global pharmaceutical company is headquartered in Indianapolis; Madam C.J. Walker, lauded as the “first black woman millionaire in America” for her successful Indianapolis line of hair care products for African-American women; and Conrad Hilton, founder of the hotel chain.

SMC alumnus Aaron Bradford, CFRE and 2018 AFP treasurer, won a $100 gift card drawn from the first 17 registrations.