South Plains College Foundation to recognize 2018 Pacesetter
LEVELLAND – The South Plains College Foundation will recognized one benefactor for exemplary philanthropic support of the college and its students by presenting them with the Pacesetter Awards at the 20th Annual Scholarship Gala slated for Feb. 22 at the Mallet Event Center. The 2018 recipients are Ray and Donna West of Midland.
The story of Ray and Donna West is one of dedication, commitment and generosity. They grew up in families where the value of higher education was instilled, even though neither set of parents ever reached that goal.
Ray grew up in Muleshoe and graduated from Muleshoe High. Donna grew up and attended school in Kansas. The pair met while they were students at the University of Oklahoma. Ray obtained his bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering in 1959, a year after Donna earned a bachelor’s degree in education.
“Mom and Dad only had an eighth-grade education, but there was never any discussion that I wasn’t going to college,” Ray said. “They lived a hard life, and they wanted us to go to college. I was the first one in my family to go to college, and my brother followed me. But I don’t think he would have gone if I hadn’t.”
When Ray was 20 years old and Donna was 19 years old, the couple married. They were still students. Ray worked in the oilfields during the summer to earn money. His course load did not allow him the opportunity to work during the semester.
“We had good parents behind us,” Donna said. “When we told them we were going to get married that was not a happy hour. Because I think they thought we were going to quit – but we didn’t.”
During Ray’s last year of college, Donna worked as a teacher. She stopped teaching when their son Denzil was born. She then worked as a substitute teacher and Ray began his career as an engineer.
“The oilfield has always been up and down,” Ray said. “When I started college, you had a pick of jobs. But when I graduated from college, you couldn’t hardly get one. This other guy and I had interviews during our junior year. I went the whole year waiting to receive a letter rescinding the offer but it didn’t happen.”
Ray worked for Pure Oil Company for seven years. After Pure Oil merged with Union, Ray tried consulting for a while. He later went to work for Bill Roden, and stayed with that company for seven years. Roden then merged with Houston Natural Gas, the forerunner to Enron. Ray then left to operate his own company, E.R. West Engineering, Inc. He worked until his retirement in 1985.
The philanthropic relationship between the Wests and South Plains College developed when the couple discovered that the nursing program in Muleshoe needed money. In 2007, the Wests donated $100,000 to the SPC Muleshoe Extension Center to create the Ray and Donna West Scholarship in Nursing.
“It was important to us that SPC have scholarships for those kids,” Ray said. “And, it’s become even more important today.”
Since then, the Wests have established six additional scholarships at South Plains College. In February 2010, they established the Ray and Donna West Scholarship for U.S. Veterans and the Ray and Donna West Bailey County Scholarship. In March 2011, the couple created the Scholarship for American Heroes Endowment. The couple established the Ray and Donna West Pre-Engineering Scholarship in September 2012, the Ray and Donna West Physical Therapist Assistant Program Scholarship in 2013 and the Ray and Donna West Scholarship in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in December 2014.
“I do love the fact that South Plains College lets you do other things,” Ray said. “You don’t have to get a Ph.D. in psychology, you can learn to be a welder or a diesel mechanic. South Plains College teaches a lot of things that other schools don’t teach.
“The only reason I went to college was to make a living,” he said. “I know and have read about people who have three degrees from Harvard and can’t get a job. That’s not my idea of an education. My philosophy is that a degree is to help you make a living.”
According to Donna, the Wests have received numerous cards and letters from the students who have benefited from their scholarships. Each year, they attend the Annual SPC Scholarship Banquet where they talk with and get to know the students they’re helping.
“I always have a wonderful time meeting the students and getting to know them,” Ray said. “At the end of the evening, I’m always glad we went.”
Ray and Donna West will celebrate their 62nd wedding anniversary in June 2018. Their children are Denzil West of Midland, Theron Lynn of Rockport, Sharon Rasavage of Midland and Theron Ray West of Norman, Okla.
The Scholarship Gala recently reached sell-out status; a new milestone for the College. For information about other ways to support this event or for information about other scholarship fundraising efforts, please contact Julie Gerstenberger, Director of Development and Alumni Relations, at (806) 716-2020.