The Barton Community College Foundation honored Brad and Sarah Shirer with the 2015 Distinguished Service Award during Barton’s 45th commencement on Friday.
The Distinguished Service Award was created in 1981 by the Barton Community College Foundation to recognize individuals who have shown genuine regard for, and have performed outstanding service to Barton Community College. The Barton Foundation Board of Directors selects the recipient from nominations received.
Brad and Sarah were born and raised in Barton County; Brad in Hoisington and Sarah in Great Bend. Although higher education and employment opportunities drew them away from the area, both responded to the strong pull they felt to return to the place they always called home.
The couples’ involvement with Barton Community College began with Sarah’s father Grant Hoener. He was instrumental in raising funds to finance the publicity campaign that brought a favorable vote from the community to establish the college. Three weeks before his death, he accepted the position of cochairman of an organization to establish an endowment fund at the college. Following his untimely death in 1968, the first endowed scholarship at Barton was established by his friends and family in his memory and was designated to benefit students in the Business Department. When the Barton campus finally became a physical reality, his family was proud to represent him at the ground breaking ceremony.
In 2006, Brad and Sarah established the Bill Sowles Memorial Scholarship in memory of Sarah’s first husband, who was a member of the initial Barton graduating class. This scholarship is specified for Criminal Justice or Psychology students.
Over the years, Brad and Sarah have experienced Barton from the perspective of student, employee, community advocate and benefactor. They take special pleasure in supporting the programs and various projects that benefit the Fine Arts Department, especially the recent auditorium renovation.
Coordinator of Fundraising and Special Events for the Foundation Coleen Cape said the generosity of the Shirers has been very beneficial to the college and the Distinguished Service Award was a great way to officially, and publicly thank them.
“They have always been involved in their community,” she said. “It is always hard to measure the impact that our loyal and generous supporters have on our students, but when you donate to any initiative in education that improves the learning experience for those students, you truly touch and change lives. It is equally difficult to adequately show your appreciation for such generosity. We can only hope that by honoring Brad and Sarah with our most prestigious award they will truly feel and know how much we appreciate their vision, foresight and continuing contributions to the mission of the college and the Foundation.”