The Gifts We Give

by Cindy Davis Meixel, writer/photo editor.

When Carol Savoy attended Williamsport Area Community College in the early ’70s, she recalls navigating muddy, unpaved parking lots and attending geology lab in a closet of the old “Trolley Barn.” As a single mother returning to school, she was a bit older than her fellow students and juggling full-time classes along with a full-time job, but she managed it all, thanks to the kindness and support of “good girlfriends and neighbors.”

Savoy was a single mother when she attended Williamsport Area Community College. She juggled responsibilities, including the care of her son, John, with help from good friends and neighbors. Photo courtesy of Carol Savoy.Today, the 1973 graduate enjoys returning to her alma mater’s now “beautiful and pristine campus,” and she’s eager to give support to other young women aiming to better their lives through education.

In particular, she is motivated to help students training for careers in the health care field. Following the three-year health struggle and 2010 passing of her husband of 35 years, John, she established the Savoy Health Sciences Scholarship. The scholarship is awarded to females, ages 23 or older, enrolled in any of the college’s Health Sciences majors.

“During the time when my husband was really ill, we got to know so many people who helped John,” she said. “We witnessed so much dedication and received so much caring. It’s such an important field, and it’s so underserved. Opportunities are always going to be there, and it’s a field that works so well for women. So, if I can help someone who wants to get back to school and go into health care, I want to do that, for sure.”

The Savoy family also supports the John A. Savoy Scholarship for Electronic Applications, awarded to students in automated manufacturing technology or manufacturing engineering technology majors. The family established that scholarship in the ’80s due to its company’s need for employees who could operate and repair the specialized equipment at John Savoy & Son Inc., a furniture manufacturing firm in Montoursville.

"We felt there was no better way to give than through education, because through education, you can help people help themselves."

Carol is now president of the company, which like the college, has a long-standing history in a humble, solid work ethic, craftsmanship, machining and innovation.

Founded in 1946 by John and his father, the business began as a machine woodcarving shop, crafting ornate furniture parts. Over the years, the business evolved to include furniture frames and upholstered furniture and has become known as Savoy Contract Furniture, supplying furniture to institutional and government markets.

Several Penn College graduates are employed at Savoy’s manufacturing facility, and the company’s furniture can be found in all of Penn College’s residence halls (comfort and convenience for current students, crafted by former students).

Carol and the late John Savoy. It was the work of health care providers who helped during John's three-year illness that inspired Carol to establish a scholarship for health sciences students. Photo courtesy of Carol Savoy.The Savoys’ connection with the college was first cultivated by former college President Robert L. Breuder, who formed a friendship with John while actively seeking community support during the early days of his tenure, which began in 1981.

“Bob was trying to get the community on board with his vision, and back then, the community was not that enamored with WACC, but Bob was trying to change that,” Carol relayed. “John became inspired by Bob’s dedication to his job and his vision for the school, so John jumped on board.”

For three decades, John was dedicated to the college’s mission, serving on various boards and providing guidance and support to staff and students. His commitment was book-ended with honors – an honorary degree and Trustees Service Award at the college’s 1984 commencement and the first Director’s Chair award, received with Carol, from the Community Arts Center, a college subsidiary, in 2005.

“John was always a believer in community service. His character was one of giving. He believed that everybody deserved a chance,” Carol said. “Throughout our marriage, he would always say: ‘We must give back. We’ve been so fortunate. You’re not put here on earth to only look out for No. 1.’ It’s just something that God tells you – this is what you need to do. And we felt there was no better way to give than through education, because through education, you can help people help themselves. It’s what we wanted – the legacy we want to leave.”

Passing this passion for giving on to their eight children (and 14 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren) is an aspiration Carol continues to nurture; she was reminded of the power of giving when she received the book “Raising Charitable Children” as part of her honor last year as the college’s Alumna of the Year at the Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce’s 11th annual Education Celebration.

Of all the items she received as part of her award gift package, it’s the book that she thinks of most. The fondness for this keepsake is similar to her attachment to all of the thank-you notes and Christmas cards she and John received through the years from college students who were recipients of their scholarships. Each is still kept on file in her office.

“The students’ gratitude is heartwarming,” she said. “They talk about how the scholarship benefited them, how they didn’t have to borrow more and have so much debt. They are so grateful that there are others who are willing to help them and encourage them. I think, you can write a check and send it to a national organization and never really know how it benefits a particular person, but with something local, you’re more aware of the impact.”

Carol has met some scholarship recipients at college functions, and one student, in particular, even visited the Savoy facility to extend his thanks.

“It’s just heartwarming whenever you see a young person who you know will go on to be a responsible citizen, making a difference in the community,” she offered. “It makes you want to do more when you see people benefitting. I truly believe ‘the more you give, the more you get.’ It’s so rewarding.”

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