DANVILLE — A longtime Danville couple has donated $50,000 to fund an annual scholarship at Danville Area Community College.
Dr. David Dillman — an ophthalmologist, owner of Dillman Eye Care Associates in Danville and a former DACC trustee — and his wife, Cheryl Vergin — a former cancer researcher, who helped establish her husband's practice — created the Dillman/Vergin Family Scholarship Fund.
The fund will provide $1,000 scholarships through the DACC Foundation. It will be awareded to a full- or part-time student who has a B average and demonstrates determination, inner motivation, good communication skills and the ability to achieve. Preference will be given to someone who is involved in extracurricular activities or athletics or works part-time.
The new scholarship first was announced in the fall of 2012 when it was awarded to the first recipient. However, foundation officials didn't release the donation amount until this week.
Foundation officials said they're grateful for the couple's gift, and said it will provide life-changing opportunities for students.
"Finances are the single biggest obstacle to obtaining a college education," Executive Director Tracy Wahlfeldt said. "Dr. Dillman and Ms. Vergin and other donors like them provide the wrecking ball that knocks down those walls between students and their educational goals. Their scholarship dollars build bridges to achievement, and we are tremendously grateful for their commitment."
In the 2012-13 academic year, the foundation awarded a record-breaking 372 scholarships valued at more than $342,000. While the number of scholarships awarded was higher than ever before, Waldfeldt said there still are unmet needs.
"Continuing growth of new scholarships such as the Dillman/Vergin Family Scholarship is essential to meeting the ever-growing need for financial support of students."
Dillman and Vergin moved to Danville in the early 1980s. Over the last 30 years, they raised their two daughters; built their business, which celebrated 30 years in 2011; and contributed their time and resources to improving the community, according to Wahlfeldt.
Known as an innovator in his field, Dillman has been committed to bringing advances in cataract surgery to the local community. Recently, he added ReLACS, the latest computer-driven laser technology for cataract surgery, and became one of only two practices to offer the service outside of the Chicago area. The other is near St. Louis.
Vergin was trained in microbiology and did cancer research at the Mayo Clinic, where she met Dillman. She helped her husband establish his business in the early years, then turned her attention to raising the couple's daughters and actively supporting community organizations.
Vergin currently serves on the Vermilion County Conservation District Foundation's board of directors.
The couple is well-known for their love of Newfoundland dogs, which Dillman has raised for 38 years. It was through the dogs that they first made a connection to DACC.
Dillman recalled that the dogs' first veterinarian was Dr. George Richards, who chaired the DACC board of trustees at the time.
"We played a little golf together, and he invited me to lunch with him and Dr. Ron Lingle, then president of DACC," Dillman said. "George told me a lot about the college and asked if I would run for a vacant seat on the board. It was an easy decision. George is so persuasive and passionate about the college."
Dillman was elected to the board in 1987, and served a six-year term. Though his term ended 20 years ago, the couple remains committed to the college. They previously made a $25,000 donation in honor of five college employees.
And when personal computers first became prevalent at work and in homes, Vergin registered for computer classes at DACC. She said the people prompted her to support the college's mission.
"The people are wonderful," she said. "I'm very impressed with the instructors. They are enthusiastic and easy to contact if you are having trouble. I am in woman's group that is interested in education for women, including providing scholarships for women who are experiencing a life change that necessitates returning to school for new skills. I appreciate the work the college does in providing education and work skills for residents to stay in the community."
Vergin's husband echoed her sentiments.
"There are many fabulous people and organizations that do great things in Danville. But if I had to pick one organization that is the most far-reaching, both for the present and in the future, it would be this college. The college reaches out and positively impacts the community in so many ways."