Roughly 400 students each year receive scholarships from the Central Oregon Community College Foundation. Now John Overbay, a Bend native, has helped — in a big way — to ensure that money to assist future students will be there when it’s needed.

Overbay has donated $1 million to the foundation, the college announced Tuesday.

His ties to the college are nearly as deep as his ties to the community. As a young man Overbay attended the community college for a couple of years beginning in 1952, when it was still part of the then-Bend School District. He went on, as many COCC students do, to a four-year school, in his case, Lewis & Clark in Portland.

Later, after taking over his father-in-law’s small grocery store chain, he spent 13 years on the independent COCC board of directors and fully 20 years on the COCC Foundation’s board.

He knows, as some Central Oregonians might not, the value of the community college to students who may never have thought of themselves as college material, or who might wish to complete a two-year program to earn an associate degree or certificate or who simply want to pick up a few classes so they can advance in existing jobs.

The foundation makes that possible 400 times a year, on average. If a full-time student is awarded a scholarship from the foundation’s main program, it may be renewed for two more years if a student’s grades are good enough and he or she takes enough classes.

Moreover, the foundation doesn’t give partial scholarships. Rather, a full-time student will receive tuition money for a full academic year; part-time students receive less money, but it, too, is enough to cover tuition for a full year.

John Overbay’s gift won’t be spent immediately. Rather, the foundation will invest it, as it does other gifts, so the gift can be used over time, helping men and women in Central Oregon get the post-high school education they need.

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