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W. Harold Smith Charitable Trust Creates MTCC Endowed Scholarship

The William Harold Smith Charitable Trust, a local charity established by the late Harold Smith, has created a new endowed scholarship at McDowell Technical Community College with a gift of $50,000 to the McDowell Technical Community College Foundation. These funds will be matched with proceeds from a Title III grant provided by the U.S. Department of Education, bringing the initial endowment of the William Harold Smith Memorial Endowed Scholarship to $100,000.

The gift from the Charitable Trust continues the organization’s incredible legacy of providing financial aid to needy McDowell High graduates, with over $5.3 million in aid given to four-year college students and students at McDowell Technical Community College since the first scholarships were awarded in 1998—an average of nearly $200,000 per year.

“We are grateful to Harold Smith for his amazing generosity and forethought in establishing a trust to provide an avenue of support for needy McDowell High students to pursue higher education,” said Mitch Goodson, Trustee and Chairman of the William Harold Smith Charitable Trust.

William Harold Smith

Who Was Harold Smith?

Harold Smith was a local entrepreneur and owner of Smith’s Esso service station on North Main Street in Marion, which was located at the site now occupied by Marion City Hall Annex. Mr. Smith was genuinely interested in the youth of McDowell County and hired many of them to work at his service station after school and on weekends. He encouraged them to stay in school and to continue their education after high school graduation.

Smith himself had no children and lived a simple life. He was not prone to extravagances and saved much of the money he earned.

Before his death, Mr.Smith approached local attorney Steve Little to help him establish the William Harold Smith Charitable Trust, which would be created with proceeds from his estate upon his death. He wanted to make sure that future generations of McDowell High School students who couldn’t afford a college education would have the means to do so.

When he passed away, funds from his estate were placed in the Trust according to the terms he had established.

Original members of the Charitable Trust were Matt Smith, Trustee; Mitch Goodson, Chairman; David Ditt, Secretary; Chuck Smith; and the principal of McDowell High School. Later, local businessman Jerry Arnold replaced Chuck Smith on the committee. Several changes took place at the Trust in 2023, with Mitch Goodson being named both Trustee and Chairman, Ben Talbert replacing Jerry Arnold and adding Jan Goodson to the committee. Melora Bennett, current principal of McDowell High School, also serves on the committee.

Awarding of Scholarships

Funds provided to the college by the W. Harold Smith Charitable Trust have been placed in the MTCC Foundation Endowment Fund, which is managed by the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina. The first scholarships from the William Harold Smith Memorial Endowed Scholarship will be awarded during the fall semester of 2025. Scholarship awards can cover the cost of tuition, fees or other expenses billed by the college. Scholarships are renewable after the first year if the recipient continues to meet eligibility criteria for the award.

Criteria for the Smith Endowed Scholarship includes the following:

  • Must be a graduate of McDowell High School
  • Must have a 3.0 grade point average (GPA). Lower GPA’s may be considered only under unusual circumstances.)
  • Must be enrolled full-time at McDowell Tech. Part-time students may be considered only if the scholarship will allow a student to finish the final portion of their course of study.)
  • Must have proven financial need. The scholarship will not exceed the cost of attendance (tuition, fees and books) when combined with all other non-repayable financial aid, such as Pell Grants, tuition assistance grants and other scholarships.

Applications and selection criteria may be obtained from McDowell High School guidance counselors or the financial aid office at McDowell Tech.

Smith’s Vision

“William Harold Smith was a visionary of sorts,” said MTCC Interim President Ryan Garrison. “He knew that the path to upward socioeconomic mobility begins with a good, solid education. He preached that vision to the young people he knew, particularly those who worked for him. But he went beyond words of encouragement to stay in school and study hard. The simple life he led and the sacrifices he made throughout his life allowed him to create a charitable trust that would provide financial assistance in perpetuity for local students to attend college. Those funds have already helped numerous deserving students, and the William Harold Smith Memorial Endowed Scholarship will continue that legacy at McDowell Tech for many years to come. We offer our sincere thanks to Mitch Goodson and other members of the Trust’s board for their generosity to our students and our community.”

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