A Deerfield couple recently made the largest donation by a living donor to Garden City Community College’s Endowment Association for a scholarship fund. It will provide six full-ride scholarships per year for Garden City Co-op, Inc. employees, members, as well as their spouses, children and grandchildren.

Otis and Mary Lee Molz believe strongly in farmer-owned cooperatives. This belief, coupled with their equally strong belief in higher education, recently prompted the couple to establish the Otis and Mary Lee Molz Cooperative Scholarship Fund through Garden City Community College’s Endowment Association.

Jeremy Gigot, GCCC’s endowment director, said it is the largest donation the GCCC Endowment Association has ever received from a living donor.

“They’re the farmers who remind me of my parents and grandparents farming. They are humble, honest, intelligent, dedicated, hard-working, and they care about the community,” Gigot said. “I am so thankful I had the opportunity to meet them and work with them because they are just wonderful people.”

According to the Cooperative Hall of Fame website, www.heroes.coop, Otis Molz has served on numerous boards of directors, including the Garden City Co-op, Farmland, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and CoBank, which he also played a key role in creating.

The couple also helped establish cooperatives in Latin America, using their personal funds to travel there and train co-op members in best business practices. They also used their considerable influence to help build lasting relationships between these new co-ops and cooperatives in the United States.

The Molzes were unable to be reached for comment.

The fund has been set up as an endowed scholarship that the couple will continue to fund until it reaches $500,000. The fund is set up in such a way that the interest earned on it will be used to fund the scholarships.

“Our endowed scholarships are structured so that the principal is never touched and the income generated by the principal at our endowed rate provides the scholarships,” Gigot said.

To account for inflation and tuition increases, the Garden City Co-op also committed to contributing $15,000 per year for the next 10 years to the fund.

“The Garden City Co-op wanted to make sure that the fund keeps growing, so that annual contribution will allow the fund to keep growing and keep ahead of inflation and tuition increases,” he said.

Because of Molz’s affiliation with CoBank, that company also contributed $10,000 to the fund.

Not only is the fund the biggest donation the GCCC Endowment Association has ever received by a living donor, but Gigot said the scholarships will also be the largest academic scholarships that GCCC Endowment Association offers — up to $2,720 per year, based on 16 credit hours at $85 per credit hour for two semesters.

“Because these are full-fee, full-tuition scholarships, these are the largest academic scholarships that the Endowment will offer,” Gigot said. “So this is a tremendous opportunity.”

In an email, Gigot provided the following details about the scholarship:

Up to three scholarships are to be awarded annually to recipients who are an employee or spouse, child or grandchild of an employee of Garden City Co-op or its subsidiaries; up to three scholarships are to be awarded to recipients who are a member or spouse, child or grandchild of a member of the Garden City Co-op.

Recipients must be enrolled full-time (a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester) and possess, at a minimum, a 2.75 GPA.

Financial need may also be used as a factor when awarding both types of scholarships.

Applicants must also submit a one-page essay on a topic to be determined by the committee charged with awarding the scholarship.

“So when the scholarship is fully up and running, the applicants for the scholarship will apply through the Garden City Community College financial aid department and we will verify that those applicants meet the minimum requirements for the scholarship and then we will forward all the qualifying applicants to the Garden City Co-op scholarship committee and they will make the final selection,” Gigot said.

The full number of scholarships will not be awarded until the scholarship is fully funded, Gigot said.

“We’re going to start awarding next year, and as the fund grows — because it’s not fully endowed yet —when it reaches its fully endowed point, then we’ll be awarding all six. But to start, we’re going to start awarding next fall, a lesser number of scholarships,” he said.

Gigot said the scholarship can be used for any program of study.

The fund was announced at the Garden City Co-op’s annual meeting, held on Dec. 3.

“They want it to be based on a Co-op that has been supportive of their lives. Otis is a huge proponent of the cooperative system, so this is the means by which they can support that system. He’s also a huge proponent of education,” Caroline Duvall, administrative services manager at Garden City COOP said. “It’s just an amazing contribution on their part.”

The Molzes also established a cooperative scholarship with Kansas State University focused on helping students who plan to work in the cooperative system.