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Giving Makes a Difference: Dottie ’58 and Nelson ’59 Megna

Nelson and Dottie Megna with students
Nelson and Dottie Megna with students

Dottie ’58 and Nelson ’59 Megna have in some ways pretty typical Keene State stories: Both grew up in New Hampshire, were first in their family to attend college, worked and relied heavily on scholarships to facilitate their education. Both loved their Keene State experiences, citing specifically caring faculty and staff who took the time to encourage them and know them well. Both graduated from Keene Teachers College with the skills they needed to get teaching jobs, both later went on to earn advanced degrees in education to build on the foundation they’d gotten at Keene Teachers College. Both have worked in service to others, and continue to volunteer well into retirement.

But what the Megnas have done for others with the opportunities they’ve had is extraordinary.

In 2013, after years of generous donations to the college, they created the Megna Family Endowed Scholarship. The fund serves to provide financial support and encouragement to promising students interested in becoming teachers. They established the fund to express their appreciation to the College for the benefits they received while they were students here – for their education, the foundation for their careers, and each other.

The pair met through their shared interest in the College’s newspaper, then called The Monadnock; Nelson was editor, and when he had to take a semester off for financial reasons, Dottie took over the position. They married after she graduated, and lived together in “the barracks” for married students on campus for his senior year and her first year of teaching – during which their oldest daughter was born.

We asked the Megnas if they had any advice for others considering a similar family donation. Their best hints:

  • Work with the Development Office. Nelson says that it was easier because development staff are informed, have experience in this type of endowment funding, and, in the Megnas’ case, were able to call attention to a special limited-time opportunity to donate money to a non-profit educational institution tax-free. If opportunities like that exist, development staff will be well-positioned to help you take advantage.

  • Think carefully through how you want that scholarship administered. The Megnas chose to make their scholarship a four-year one, because they knew that the income from their gift was not substantial enough to make a huge difference in one year, but could make a significant difference over four years. Think about other restrictions or allowances you want to make to do the most good.

  • Talk with others who’ll be affected. Dottie says talking it over with the family, since it was going to be a family scholarship, was critical for them. Their fund’s name was chosen very deliberately, and the family – four children and now 17 grandchildren (including spouses) and two great-grandchildren – have all been involved from its inception. The Megnas discussed their plans with their children, as they’re aware that money they give or bequeath to the College is money their own children won’t inherit. As Nelson puts it, “We talked with the children, told them what we were proposing to do. They were very supportive.” Other family members have already begun to contribute to the fund, and it is Nelson and Dottie’s hope that that can continue.

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