Donor Spotlight: Evelyn and Scott Middleton See SMC as a Pillar Of Opportunity for the Local Community
By Miranda Kozman
This article appeared originally in the Fall 2019 issue of Frontiers Magazine.
When you ask Evelyn Middleton why she invests so much in Spartanburg Methodist College, you can immediately hear excitement bubble in her voice. For her, supporting SMC is a point of deep personal pride.
“I wish I could put into words how wonderful SMC is,” she remarks. “Spartanburg helps students get a college education who wouldn’t otherwise be able to, and that’s incredible. Getting a college education changes students’ lives and it changes their families’ lives, too. I’ve seen it over and over again.”
For more than a decade, Reverend Evelyn Middleton and her husband, Reverend Scott Middleton, have made major contributions to SMC because they believe wholeheartedly in its mission and the opportunities it provides to the community. They have contributed to several key building and improvement projects, including the Ballard Center, the SMC Studio, and the renovation of Judd Hall. Their support has been instrumental in helping the College update and innovate its facilities to better serve students.
Their support for Spartanburg goes beyond their financial contributions. Scott has worked with young entrepreneurs at SMC and Evelyn is a long-standing member of the Board of Trustees. Through her work as a Board member, Evelyn has seen that the College is skillfully guided by a group of Trustees with diverse perspectives and backgrounds. “Every time I go to the Board meetings, I’m always learning,” she notes. “Everyone on the Board is a welcome voice. So we get to see every issue from a number of different perspectives and then put them all together to make the best decisions.”
In addition to the Board of Trustees, Evelyn also sees expert leadership from the College’s president, Scott Cochran. “Scott makes sure that Board members get the opportunity to meet students and instructors and hear from them about what’s happening at the school. That’s so important. Scott is involved in the students’ lives. He knows about them and cares about them, and I think that really makes a difference in the effectiveness of SMC.”
As ministers in Methodist churches, Evelyn and Scott are naturally supportive of Methodist schools in the area. However, the couple’s connection to SMC is personal and stretches back to Scott Middleton’s own education when he attended SMC as a freshman. He has never forgotten the opportunities the College opened up for him, and now he supports the College so that others in the community can have the same kinds of opportunities. Scott has seen firsthand how a personalized and supportive educational environment can transform a student’s life. “My high school teachers did not believe I would be successful in college. It was undiagnosed at the time, but I later found out I was dyslexic and had ADHD. SMC allowed me to have small classes and direct contact with professors who helped me to learn. Without that, I would not have been able to continue my education and I wouldn’t have been successful in business.”
In addition to the learning environment, Scott is also impressed with the well-rounded experience that SMC provides for its students. “SMC works hard to give every student a chance to be successful in the classroom as well as in social interactions. Through extracurricular activities, every student has the opportunity to gain experience in practical life situations and develop their leadership skills,” he notes.
Evelyn and Scott Middleton have seen SMC change the trajectory of students’ lives, but Evelyn is especially thrilled to see the College’s expanded community outreach initiatives to bring in a larger and more diverse student body. She is supportive of SMC’s recent move to begin offering four-year degrees in addition to two-year degrees. “So many students say their only criticism of SMC is that they have to go somewhere else to get their B.A. So I think this change will bring in a lot more students and their opportunities at SMC will expand.”
Evelyn knows that SMC’s work is far from over, and she feels the College has more to offer the community in the future. “There are a lot of projects in the works right now. We’ve been discussing a number of possibilities, and I’m excited about where we’re headed.”