The Dining Services Auxiliary Fund was created in 2004 by dining services staff and Jeff Gring, then associate vice president for operations, to directly assist students with the cost of textbooks. In the inaugural year, 100 percent of the staff in Gring’s department contributed to the fund, and to this day it maintains a strong giving percentage with gifts from faculty as well as staff. Currently, Mike Ferguson ’81, director of dining services, is responsible for the administration of the Fund. Ferguson’s story is one that is familiar to many Ferrum College graduates: it is a story that led him to both work at his alma mater and participate in a program that supports students who may be struggling in their pursuit of education.
Ferguson grew up in the small town of Ferrum, in a family of 10 children. He never planned to go to college due to the expense. Instead, he secured a job in a furniture factory, but he dreamed of obtaining a college degree. After three years in the furniture factory, Ferguson applied for admission to Ferrum College. As it was already late summer, he was told he would not be eligible for admission until the spring semester. “I was so upset that I just didn’t know which way to turn,” he recalls. “So, I went back to the furniture factory and worked harder than ever, in an attempt to drown my sorrows.”
But the staff at Ferrum College wanted to make Ferguson’s dream of higher education a reality. Three weeks after applying, Ferguson received an acceptance letter from the College. “This is what drew me to the place that I am now proud to be a part of today,” Ferguson says. He notes the compassion of the staff who work with students and families to provide access to a Ferrum College education in spite difficult circumstances. He believes that the College’s motto, “Not Self, But Others,” was and still is the foundation of the institution.
The Dining Services Auxiliary Fund is further proof of this living motto. Contributors of the Fund recognize the importance of accomplishing educational goals. These goals cannot be met without the required textbooks—often an expense for which a student in need is not equipped. Ferguson believes the Ferrum College’s motto is the basis for the continued success of this Fund. “There is no amount too small to contribute,” he says. “Every penny adds up.”
Ferguson says that folks who work in dining services and contribute to the Auxiliary Fund are extremely gratified to see they are making a difference in students’ lives. That gratification is magnified when the Fund participants witness those student graduates at commencement each year. Ferguson adds: “The joy that you feel when you get to meet the parents and receive a big hug for the little things that you may have done to help their son or daughter – it makes your eyes water just to talk about it.”