$1.1 million donated to MCCC by local businessman

From left: MCCC President Dr. Kojo A. Quartey, Trustee Krista K. Lambrix, Trustee William Bruck, Board Secretary Aaron N. Mason, Board Vice Chair Mary Kay Thayer, Board Chair Lynette Dowler and Gary Vajcner, who donated $1.1 million to MCCC. Photo courtesy of Joe Verkennes.
The crowd at Monday’s ceremony.
Joshua Myers addresses the crowd.
Attendees listen to Gary Vajcner’s remarks.
Gary Vajcner (left) and Kojo Quartey speak to the crowd.
Gary Vajcner received a standing ovation from the crowd.

Local businessman Gary J. Vajcner has always desired to give back to Monroe. On Monday, Vajcner was able to do just that.

Vajcner donated $1.1 million dollars to Monroe County Community College at a ceremony held Monday in MCCC’s Audrey M. Warrick Student Services building.

Vajcner’s donation to MCCC is now the largest donation by an individual to date that the college has ever received. The donation was made to The Foundation at MCCC in memory of Vajcner’s late wife, Patricia A. Vajcner, who passed away in March of this year.

Mr. Vajcner’s generous donation will be used to improve both MCCC’s classrooms and student spaces and establish a $50,000 scholarship called the Patricia A. Vajcner Memorial Scholarship. Furthermore, two spaces on campus will be named in the Vajcner’s honor. The commons area of the former East and West tech buildings will be named the Gary J. and Patricia A. Vajcner Academic Commons, and the Career Technology Center’s machining suite will also bear the Vajcner’s names.

“It’s donors like Mr. Vajcner who play such a vital role in enhancing the educational experiences of our students and, ultimately, contributing to their success,” Kojo Quartey, president of MCCC, said during the ceremony.

Victor S. Bellestri, chair of The Foundation at MCCC, commended Mr. Vajcner for using his resources for the betterment of the community.

“The goal of The Foundation at MCCC is to give our students the opportunity to better themselves and their families, to become good leaders, good citizens through education,” Bellestri said. “Mr. Vajcner’s most generous gift in his wife Patricia’s name will greatly enhance our ability to do these things with scholarships, grants, cultural enrichment, and so much more for many years to come.”

Rep. Joseph Bellino, Jr. said the donation will help fulfill the college’s mission statement by benefitting both current and future MCCC students and the community as a whole.

Joshua Myers, director of The Foundation, mentioned Mr. Vajcner’s generosity through the donation process. Myers recalled that Vajcner had originally wanted to give $20,000, but that number kept increasing into the final $1.1 million donation.

“It is a rare person who asks so very little and gives so very much,” Myers stated. “It was clear to me from the beginning that Gary wanted to do something not only noteworthy, but lasting, to honor the love of his life Patricia and the life they had built together in our community. Gary’s gift today will help us create exceptional spaces of learning on our campus for students. This extraordinary act of generosity will establish a perpetual legacy of giving.”

Mr. Vajcner himself was the final speaker at the ceremony. He addressed the crowd and thanked them for being there. He also thanked his wife for the lifetime she spent with him, and his father for immigrating to America from Czechoslovakia, which led him to Monroe. Vajcner said that although he has traveled to many places, he wouldn’t want to live anywhere other than Monroe. Because of his love for Monroe, he said he and Patricia wanted to give back to the community.

“Pat and I decided we must give back in favor of paying it forward and encourage others to do the same,” Vajcner said of his donation. “We consider giving back as a form of paying forward, which may entail others to do the same. Helping students achieve their goals and having productive lives, to me, is an outstanding opportunity.”

In the past, the Vajcners have helped fund local projects, including Monroe’s statue of President James Monroe, Flags over Veterans, a new saw mill for the River Raisin National Battlefield Park and Monroe County 4-H’s grant champions.