As a single father, Central Ohio Technical College (COTC) student Shawn Dugan leads by example – an example that has shown service to the community is both noticed and rewarded. Dugan, of Saint Louisville, is the recipient of the J. Gilbert Reese Next Generation Community Leadership Award and a $2,000 scholarship for spring semester 2021.
“Mr. Reese had a huge impact on my life. The fact that this award is named after him means a lot to me,” said Dugan. “In many ways, this is almost coming full circle — what he has given to my life and what I’m able to do because of those things.”
Thanks to the generosity of the Reeses, Dugan received a life-altering experience in the Italian Immersion Program at COTC. The Reese Family Foundation pays all program fees for 20 COTC students to travel to Regello, Italy, and for Italian students to visit Ohio in alternating years. For a truly immersive experience, COTC students reside with Italian host families while taking in the culture, history and the food of Italy. Dugan participated in the 2016 trip, which he credits for the altruistic direction he has taken in life.
“Not only was I moved by the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Reese, but I was also drawn deeply into a sense of belonging and a desire to be a part of something,” Dugan wrote. “I distinctly remember making a thank you letter to Mr. and Mrs. Reese after the 2016 trip in which I stated that I hoped one day I would be able to make a difference. What I have since learned is that one day is now. I do not need to wait until I have the grand means to do something so big and generous, but I could start where I am.”
So Dugan began looking for more ways to make a difference. He volunteered at COTC events like the annual Egg Drop Competition and College Aspire. Off campus, he participated in a service project with the engineering technology student organization to restore a bridge on a bike path in eastern Newark. He volunteered at STEMfest at The Works in Newark, STEM on the Square in Mount Vernon and the Coshocton Manufacturing and Technology Camp. Dugan also became an active member of the Food For The Hungry organization in Knox County. Today he remains engaged as a community member, continuing to coordinate the food drive competition in Knox County schools, serving as a community committee member and volunteering with other Food For The Hungry activities.
His interest in feeding the community has inspired his entrepreneurial spirit. He owns a business startup that he describes as “a market garden farm and event space with an emphasis on agritourism and on-farm community events and activities such as workshops and event hosting.
“In addition, my intent is to focus on the issue of food justice, and use my space and platform to create programs that will both enable and teach people to grow food through a community garden space and membership program.” It his hope that one day he will be able to grant memberships to those who are less fortunate.
Dugan has been a student at Central Ohio Technical College since 2012, exploring several majors before deciding on an Associate of Technical Studies that allows him to explore and harness his interests and career goals.
COTC President John M. Berry, PhD, praised Dugan, saying, “There could have been no better selection for this award. Shawn truly represents and epitomizes what Mr. Reese stood for. The fact that he is already providing services and wants to carry that further in a professional capacity will bring this full circle back to the community, which is simply outstanding.”
J. Gilbert Reese Next Generation Community Leadership
J. Gilbert Reese was an unwavering supporter of education and is considered one of the founders of the Newark campus. In 1957, he and friends Howard LeFevre and Al Milliken advocated for the establishment of a regional campus of The Ohio State University in Newark. Later, recognizing the need for a technical institute to meet both student and employer needs in Licking County the three took the necessary steps to help establish COTC. In 2010, the Reeses called the community to action with the Next Generation Challenge scholarship campaign — a legacy-defining campaign — that raised $21 million in scholarship funds to benefit COTC and Ohio State Newark students. Reese died at the age of 93 in November 2018.
The J. Gilbert Reese Next Generation Community Leadership Award was established in 2019 with a two-fold purpose: 1) to recognize Mr. Reese’s incredible legacy of visionary leadership and community support, and 2) to inspire the next generation of community leaders.
The award is presented annually to one COTC student and one Ohio State Newark student in November. To be eligible, students must:
- Exemplify a spirit of volunteerism and community involvement
- Be involved in student activities, clubs or organizations
- Have demonstrated leadership skills on- or off-campus
- Have a cumulative GPA of at least a 2.5
COTC is a fully accredited, public college dedicated to providing high-quality, accessible programs of technical education in response to current and emerging employment needs. COTC is the only technical college in Ohio operating four full-service campus locations: Newark, Coshocton, Knox and Pataskala.