Welches' Penn College Gifts Top $1 Million Mark

Published 12.10.1999


A local orthodontist and his wife have contributed another $800,000 to Pennsylvania College of Technology, bringing to better than $1 million the total of their unprecedented back-to-back gifts.

The latest contribution from Dr. Marshall D. Jr. and Mary Welch, on the heels of $236,000 in conjunction with renovations at the Schneebeli Earth Science Center, will add to the family's scholarship funds. In recognition of their significant follow-up endowment, the hangar at the College's Lumley Aviation Center in Montoursville will join the diesel-training facility in Allenwood in bearing the family's name.

With their devotion to education, an avocational interest in flight and career contentment with Northeastern Pennsylvania, the couple said Penn College has been an easy choice for their philanthropy. But what truly sold Dr. Welch was the counsel from local industry.

"(A friend at) the West Co. told me, 'The best plastics people come from Penn College,' " he said. "From another colleague, I've heard, 'We always get great employees from Penn College.' It really opened my eyes to what we have here in Lycoming County."

Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour, College president, said the generosity of the Welches' combined gifts speaks for itself. Underlying the significant financial contributions, however, is a very tangible investment in students.

"According to Dr. Welch, he knew in first grade what he wanted to do with his life, and he made it happen without question," she said. " What greater gift than to pass along such optimism and such opportunity to future generations."

The Welches' philosophical advice to college-bound students echoes that mix of dreams and determination.

"People can take a lot of things away from you, but they can't take away your education," noted Mrs. Welch, a former teacher at a private school in Chambersburg.

"Dr. and Mrs. Welch are dedicated to education and both believe in Penn College's mission. We are honored that they have chosen to support future generations of students that will come to the College to fulfill their dreams," according to Dennis L. Correll, associate dean for institutional advancement.

In making their case for higher learning, the Welches can offer Exhibits A, B and C: three sons, three successful college graduates. William P. "Scott" serves on the heavy-equipment faculty at Penn College; Graham is a chiropractor in Lancaster, Ohio; and Marshall III is a financial entrepreneur in Lafayette, Colo.

From the Welches' standpoint, the aviation-related programs in the College's School of Transportation Technology added to the decision that "this would be a good place to put our money."

"I build experimental and ultralight airplanes," Dr. Welch said. "I've built seven of them and sold four," maintaining the other three along with a Piper Comanche at a small airfield in Trout Run. His love of flying began on a tarpon-fishing trip to Florida early into his orthodontic practice, and instantly took hold.

He since has taken 25 hunting trips in 24 years, from Idaho to British Columbia, and flies to Lakeland, Fla., for the Experimental Aircraft Association's annual "Sun 'n' Fun Fly-In." At his peak, he logged 250 to 300 flight hours per year, but that has dwindled in the past few years.

Mrs. Welch, a former Sun Oil Co. employee and a self-described "retired housewife," also is enamored of air travel. A recent trip to Scotland cemented its status as her favorite destination, and she just returned from a YWCA-chartered tour of St. Petersburg and the European capitals.

Mrs. Welch is from Ohio and migrated to the Philadelphia area, where she met her future husband (then a student at The University of Pennsylvania) at a wedding. She and Dr. Welch, who was locally born and raised, married during his naval service. Dr. Welch's father, a Slate Run native, is a former plant engineer for the McGee Carpet Co. in Bloomsburg.

Dr. Welch is active in his woodworking and metal shops, and is a member of the Dunwoody hunting club; his wife volunteers with the James V. Brown Library and at her church. With three children and four stepgrandchildren, both also stay busy keeping in touch with far-flung friends and family via e-mail.

"My newfound hobby is the computer," said Dr. Welch, who enjoys having the world at his fingertips while keeping his feet firmly rooted.

When it came time to open a practice, the orthodontist had bypassed the chance for more lucrative work in Lancaster or York in favor of a smaller office closer to home.

"I grew up in Williamsport. I really like Williamsport. Even if I never get 50 miles from Williamsport again, I'd be happy," he said.

To be eligible for scholarship money, a student must be enrolled full-time in an aviation program and must have applied for (and be eligible for) financial aid. First-time awardees must have a minimum cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 or a high school average of at least a "B." Preference will be given to Lycoming County residents, and students are eligible for continuing awards in subsequent years if a cumulative 3.0 GPA is maintained.