DACC receives largest gift ever

DACC receives largest gift ever

DANVILLE — Danville Area Community College will break ground on a much-needed expansion to the Harry J. Braun Technology Center this fall, thanks to a donation of upwards of $3 million from an area resident with strong ties to the college.

President Alice Jacobs on Tuesday recognized Julius W. Hegeler II, who with the Julius W. Hegeler II Foundation, pledged the donation to the DACC Foundation — the single largest gift the college foundation has ever received.

Through the donation, Hegeler will provide $100,000 each year to fund the interest payment on a $3 million bond issue that will immediately allow the college to plan for and build the 10,000-square-foot addition, which will be named the Julius W. Hegeler II Advanced Technology Center. And upon his death, he will bequeath $3 million to the college foundation, which will be used to pay off the principal.

"This gift will benefit our students and our community for generations," Jacobs told a crowd of about 60 people including DACC trustees, foundation board members, college staff and current and former community leaders.

"Every gift is important," added Tracy Wahlfeldt, the DACC Foundation's executive director. "But we are so very thankful to Julius for his generosity and grateful that he allowed us to celebrate his planned gift today. Of course, we hope that he is with us for many more years, and that he'll have many chances to visit the new addition."

On Tuesday evening, DACC trustees started the process of issuing $3 million in bonds to do the project. The bonds will likely be issued in September, if all goes as planned.

Located on the campus' northeast corner, the technology center houses the Technology and Information Systems Division including drafting/CAD, electronics, golf course equipment, information systems, manufacturing, welding, auto body, auto mechanics, mechatronics and wind energy programs. It also houses the computer and network services and the Corporate and Community Education Division's Industrial Training Center.

However, the programs have long outgrown the space, Jacobs said.

"We simply did not have a viable way to fund an expansion," she said. The proposed project has sat on the college's Campus Master Plan — major capital projects that are funded with state dollars and a 25 percent local match — for a number of years. "This generous gift gives us that opportunity."

The project calls for building the addition onto the north and west sides of the technology complex. It will house two classrooms, two training labs, two offices, a small conference room, restrooms and storage.

During the short ceremony, Hegeler sat stoically in a chair next to Lois Wise, his friend and his foundation's secretary/treasurer, and he did not make a public speech. However, his eyes filled with tears when he talked to reporters about the gift.

"The community has been very good to me and my family, and this is a way to pay back," he said.

He added he believes technology training is key to the success of business and industry today.

Hegeler is a Danville native and a 1946 graduate of Danville High School. A first lieutenant in the Korean War, he served as an F-86 fighter pilot and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with a bronze Oak Leaf Cluster. He flew 70 combat missions and was one of four pilots who flew the last mission of the war.

Hegeler's family-owned business, the Hegeler Zinc Co., helped put Danville on the map. Hegeler also co-founded the Peterson Filling and Packaging Co., which became the world's largest contract packager of chemical specialties.

Hegeler has a long-standing relationship with DACC and the DACC Foundation. He went on the foundation board in 1969 and served for 24 years, including three years as president. He returned to the board in 2009 and remains a member.

The donation announcement was held at DACC's Garden Gateway, a landscaped, ornamental structure that marks the official entrance to campus. Hegeler donated the funds for it in 2009.

In 2011, he funded the $517,000-plus project to build a 6,120-square-foot state-of-the-art greenhouse for the college's Ornamental Horticulture program. He also donated a marble bench, which sits in front of the Clock Tower building, in memory of longtime liberal arts instructor Mary Coffman, who died in 2008.

On Tuesday, Hegeler recalled first asking Jacobs "What do you need?" several years ago, which led to the Garden Gateway. When he ran into her recently and asked that question again, "she was prepared," he said, adding she told him about the need to expand the technology center to allow more students to enroll in those programs. "We found with my lawyers and accountant a way to do it."

Hegeler also has served on many other community service organizations' boards and committees, and has given to many causes including Presence Medical Center's Women's Health Care Center and Cancer Center, the Vermilion County Conservation District projects, the Boys & Girls Club of Danville, the Danville Symphony Orchestra and the Danville Art League.

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