Originally from the rural Ottawa County community of Ada, a young Tom McGavran helped his parents operate the local grain elevator and spent summers working for an area farmer.
“My parents taught me work ethic, commitment and conservative living,” said McGavran. “They always supported me in my pursuit of a college degree, and they were very proud that my two brothers and I received college degrees from Fort Hays State University.”
McGavran chose to attend FHSU primarily because his two brothers, Ray and Fred, were already students there. “To me, it was more like moving home rather than leaving home,” he said. “The three of us and a friend rented a small house right off campus.”
During McGavran’s freshman year, all three brothers pledged to the Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity. “It was a very unique situation for three brothers to pledge at the same time. We were even featured with a picture in the Sigma Tau Gamma national magazine,” he said.
With a recent gift to Fort Hays State University, McGavran and his wife, Emley, residents of Minneapolis, created a scholarship that will benefit FHSU students in perpetuity. The Tom and Emley McGavran Endowed Scholarship will support students who are descendants of Sigma Tau Gamma members or who are from North Ottawa County USD 239 (Minneapolis-Delphos). It will also benefit finance majors.
McGavran’s time at FHSU, and even life after graduation, was greatly influenced by his participation in Sigma Tau Gamma. Even though Sigma Tau Gamma has not been an active fraternity on the campus of Fort Hays State since the 1980s, alumni members continue to embrace the belief that men are social beings and that friendships of college men are lasting ones.
“Most of my memories from Fort Hays State University evolve from the lifelong friendships that I made in our fraternity. Even after all these years, I still have a foursome of friends that I made through Sig Tau who get together for the annual FHSU Alumni golf tournament,” said McGavran.
After graduating from Fort Hays State, McGavran worked as a bank examiner for 10 years before an opportunity opened up in Emley’s hometown of Delphos. “I had worked at the Bank of Delphos for four years when the chance to buy the bank came up. I contacted family and friends and was able to raise the necessary capital to purchase the bank. I served as president, CEO and chief lending officer for the next 29 years,” said McGavran. “Emley was able to stay at home while our two daughters were growing up, but she also helped at the bank some.”
Even after a solid career, the influence and effect that Fort Hays State and Sigma Tau Gamma had on McGavran remained unchanged.
“Fort Hays State University and Sigma Tau Gamma literally changed my life. When we sold our bank, my family and I started looking at ways that we could give back to my college, my fraternity and the community that has been so good to us over the past 30 plus years,” McGavran said.
“I told my daughters that when I died, I wanted to establish a scholarship at FHSU that would benefit my friends from the fraternity as well as the community where we lived. I felt there was no better way to give back to a community than investing in the youth. My daughters’ immediate response was ‘Why wait? Do it now so you can set it up how you want to.’ Hopefully this scholarship will encourage other students from our area to attend FHSU and it will have the same impact on them that it had on me,” he said.
Recipients of the Tom and Emley McGavran Scholarship must be full-time FHSU students. In addition, they must be a descendant of a Sigma Tau Gamma member, a graduate from USD 239 or a finance major. The scholarship is renewable for up to four years so long as academic requirements are continually met.
Story from: Fort Hays State University