Maryville College hopes to double its admission of military veterans and dependents by 2023, with support from an unexpected bequest of $188,000.

Irene Evans, of North Arlington, New Jersey, didn’t specify in her will how veterans should benefit from her gift, but the attorney who served as executor of her estate knows Maryville College well.

Frank W. Jablonski, a Maryville College alumnus, had the responsibility of choosing veteran-associated nonprofit organizations that would be the beneficiaries of Evans’ estate.

“I’m not sure what her connection was to veterans,” the attorney said, explaining that the only directive Evans gave in her 2004 will was to bequeath her estate to “veterans associations” that were “exempt from federal and state taxes.”

Evans, who died Nov. 30, 2018, at age 88, worked for Bloomfield College in New Jersey as an administrative assistant. She was preceded in death by her husband, son and sisters.

Boost to efforts

For more than a year Jablonski worked with Eric Bellah, Maryville College’s director of development, and with Jim Humphrey, director of military recruiting and outreach, to gather information on the college’s programming for veterans and their dependents.

Jablonski said he learned about the college’s recent efforts to recruit and support veterans and their dependents by reading the college’s alumni magazine, “FOCUS.”

“It appeared to me that the college was trying to help veterans, and that the program there was worthy of giving money to,” he said of his decision to make it one of four beneficiaries from the estate. “I thought this money could provide a foundation for (college administrators) to build something stronger, something better. I would like this gift to serve as a challenge to other people to give.”

The college currently enrolls about 50 military-related students every year and will spend the money from the Evans bequest over three fiscal years to expand programming and staffing, according to Alayne Bowman, the college’s vice president for enrollment and financial aid.

“This gift will help us build on the momentum we have experienced recently with the veteran population,” she said.

“We frequently hear from these students that Maryville College is a great fit for them because of our focus on outcomes, academic reputation, close-knit community and affordability. Also, our faculty are eager to welcome veterans — their experiences and perspectives — into the classroom.”

Since 2013, when the Maryville College Student Veterans Association (MCSVA) formed, the college has seen a growing student veteran population. Initiatives and recognitions have included joining the Education Pillar of the “Got Your 6” campaign, the U.S. Department of Education’s “8 Keys to Veterans’ Success” initiative and implementation of “Green Zone Training” for faculty and staff.

In 2015, the college opened a Military Student Center in Bartlett Hall and was added to the Military Friendly School list.

The college received two Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) Veteran Reconnect grants and in 2016 was named a THEC VETS campus.

In addition to accepting veteran educational benefits, the college offers support with its MC Helping Heroes Scholarship for military members who have not accrued 100% of Veterans Affairs education benefits. The college also provides academic credit for formal military training, accommodations for those with disabilities and career placement assistance for veterans.

Jablonski is a Vietnam-era veteran. Following graduation from Maryville in 1965, he enrolled at the University of Tennessee College of Law and later was drafted and served in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps for four years.

Many of Jablonski’s family members also are Maryville College alumni, including his wife, Joan Gillespie Jablonski, Class of 1965; brothers Tod Jablonski, Class of 1961, and Fred Jablonski, 1969; brother-in-law Frederick Gillespie, 1973, and sister-in-law Lynn Gillespie Chater, 1971.

For more information about Maryville College’s student veteran program, contact Jim Humphrey, director of military recruiting and outreach, or 865-981-8015. 

Amy Beth earned her degree from West Virginia. She joined The Daily Times in 2016 on the education beat covering Alcoa, Maryville and Blount County school systems.

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