Legacy Scholarship Dinner: A Grateful Gathering

Heather Morton, the student speaker with Dr. Karin Hilgersom viewing in the background, gives a reassuring speech to the Legacy Scholarship Dinner audience.
Jared Libby

The 12th Annual Legacy Scholarship Dinner on Friday, Sept. 29, manifests an aura of fellowship and generosity, which becomes an unforgettable memory for our faculty, staff, and students. Student recipients gather to be recognized and show appreciation to their donors, excited to accept generous support that allows them to continue their college education.

Hosted by the Foundation and Grants Office, this celebration inspires current and future generations on their paths to success. Donors who give generously are the foundation of free-thinking and critical understanding at a higher level. This time of the year is beautiful because students and donors meet to cement their shared commitment to education and the bright futures donors provide to their scholarship recipients.

Investing in Your Future

As lines outside the Student Center converge, conversations and laughter are audible inside, radiating welcoming sounds of excitement and pride. Hundreds arrive for an evening to dine with their peers and donors under the blanket of a rose-colored autumn sky, a treat on the eyes exclusive to northern Nevada sunsets.

Gretchen Sawyer welcomes donors and students to the Legacy Scholarship Dinner.

Gretchen Sawyer welcomes donors and students to the Legacy Scholarship Dinner.

Donors to the TMCC Foundation are fundamental because they care for perfect strangers who they believe will continue to make northern Nevada a great place to live. This year, the Foundation awarded 743 scholarships, thanks to the generosity of our donors – an average award of $1,106 – to 524 students.

“We are grateful for the extraordinary generosity from donors who are making a transformational impact on student lives!” said Gretchen Sawyer, Executive Director of Foundation and Grants.

Heather Morton, student speaker, single mother of three, and aspiring welder, gave a moving account of tinkering long nights in the garage with her father in Fernley at a young age. Pursuing her Associate of Science degree in Welding, her objective proved challenging, a series of devastating setbacks halting her progress. After fortifying her resolve and gaining self-confidence, Morton will continue her studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, to acquire her Bachelor’s Degree. Ultimately, landing a welding instructor position at TMCC would allow her to motivate students like herself to look inward to reveal their ambitions.

“Tonight, I am standing on this stage to show you how much your life can change when you believe in yourself. I had found my place under a welding hood, where my entire world made sense. Before I knew it, I was like NASCAR, just going in circles. I was an addict, an alcoholic, a pill popper,” said Morton.

Students and donors listen to Heather Morton's moving speech.

Students and donors listen to Heather Morton's moving speech.

“I lost myself in the years that followed. I lost my son, my house, my cars, my pride, and my purpose. I felt broken, and I didn’t know how to fix it. I want to talk to my son, be the best version of myself for my kids, and weld. I want to make a difference in people’s lives. I want to be the voice in the back of your heads that says, ‘Yes, you can!’ That you matter, and you got this. Regardless of what you’ve been through,” continued Morton.

Empathizing brings humility and, with it, self-reflection. There’s no better moment in our lives to discover who we are than on our college journeys, and a little economic assistance goes a long way in proving that we are on the destined path for ourselves. Scholarships have the power to change our world, and their influence stretches beyond the sole recipient. When we think of how much it means to their beloveds, the ties that bind us become the link between our community and a prosperous academic institution.

The takeaways from an occasion like this stick with us and remind us why we do what we do. Reflecting on the things that embody our mission ensures that we stick with those principles and evolve according to the needs of our students and campus culture. Let’s continue this hospitality in our classrooms and meetings because, as we all know and champion, we’re instructing future leaders of this country, and financial grace never hurt anyone, only strengthened their resolve to become professionals.

“I get to stand on this stage tonight, not because I like to be vulnerable or share my truths, but because maybe someone out here tonight sees me. That hears me and is inspired to go after what they want out of life. I am worth it, and so are you,” said Morton.

For more information, please visit the Foundation and Grants Office website or call 775-674-7648.