Sentry Exclusive: Million dollar donor revealed

Last summer, Crowder College received a donation in the amount of one million dollars. Until recently, the donor had asked to remain anonymous. Feeling that an explanation for her donation was in order, Carol Gaskill has revealed her name and her reasons for giving to Crowder.

Gaskill wanted to memorialize her husband and his ideals of hard work and saving. She hopes that these funds will be used to “…help area students plant gardens of knowledge and improve their lot in life.”

Gakill donated one million dollars to Crowder in honor of her late husband, Jim Gaskill, on July 11, 2014.

Gakill donated one million dollars to Crowder in honor of her late husband, Jim Gaskill, on July 11, 2014.

Never attending college herself, Gaskill grew up in the Joplin area attending St. Peter’s Catholic School. Being one of seven children in her family meant there were more hands to pitch in along with more mouths to feed. Her father, an Italian immigrant farmer, worked at a large bakery and brought home broken cookies to be “…snatched…by his hungry bunch.”

“Although we didn’t have much, we didn’t struggle,” said Gaskill.

In her husband Jim’s family, “…there were four children, a mostly absent father, and a mother who needed a job to support the family. Sometimes the job, like the one in the ice cream factory, allowed her to bring her children to work alongside her, where any spilled product was quickly lapped up by her little co-workers.”

She met Jim at a grocery store where he worked.

“We got to talking and he asked me out, so we started dating. He managed every department. He was working all the time and always breaking dates,” says Gaskill.

“You know the song ‘Dancing Queen’ …’only seventeen?’ She just wanted to dance, and that was me. I just wanted to go dancing.”

They were both young, and they eventually went their separate ways. However, time and groceries brought them back together later on in life.

“Jim had never married, but; of course, he was still in the grocery business. I was divorced, but I still had to buy groceries to feed my kids. So, we started dating again.”

They married later and built a life of working together.

A lover of literature and the fine arts, Gaskill says that her eldest brother has had the greatest influence on her life. Roberto, or Bob, as he’s called is the person who exposed her to the world of opera.

“He always laughs that he got all the brains. He graduated from St. Louis University, and then he went on to Georgetown University.”

Her history with Crowder College goes back to the time of Camp Crowder when Gaskill’s father rented horses to the soldiers.

“They rented them and took their dates riding,” Gaskill explained.

Carol Gaskill's connection to Crowder College goes back to her father who would rent horses to Camp Crowder soldiers. Kate Kelley | Editor-In-Chief

Carol Gaskill’s connection to Crowder College goes back to her father who would rent horses to Camp Crowder soldiers. Kate Kelley | Editor-In-Chief

Attracted to Crowder because of this historical connection, the college’s long-term focus on students’ success and the work done by the alternative energy department, Gaskill decided to donate Jim’s “seed money” on what would’ve been his 80th birthday.

“This exceptionally generous gift will provide a wealth of opportunity for Crowder students,” said Dr. Jennifer Methvin, President of Crowder College.

“It has been a joy to get to know our new donor and the donor’s family and to learn what strengths and opportunities they saw in Crowder College that made them want to invest in our students’ futures. The donor has referred to this gift as seed money, and I have pledged that we will be good stewards of these funds, ensuring that the seeds grow into expanded opportunities for Crowder students,” Dr.  Methvin said.

The funds will be used by the Crowder College Foundation for scholarships, support of educational travel for students and for academic program support and development. A portion of the money will be invested to start a fund that will continue to grow for future use. The donation is among the largest one-time donations received by the college and is the largest non-capital gift received to date.

“Carol Gaskill is one of the most interesting people I have had the pleasure of meeting; she is an American girl who found opportunity, worked hard and made the most of it. Carol and Jim recognized the importance of a good education, hard work and a conservative lifestyle that has afforded them the opportunity to help others. The broad impact of Carol’s gift in its outward motion to students, families and the community cannot be measured,” said Cindy Branscum, Director of Institutional Advancement.

“Life is a test,” says Gaskill. “I think in the end, it’s not about what we do, but what we didn’t do.”

Wanting to do her part, Gaskill says, “Today much seed “dollars” are needed for education. If we all give as many of these dollars as we can, we will have a very good harvest.”

Click here for a letter written by Carol Gaskill: