Working to keep the future bright for young farmers in Michigan’s Great Southwest, a new endowment scholarship program at Southwestern Michigan College will honor a prominent farm family while benefiting agricultural students there with scholarships at the same time.
A new $10,000 gift to Southwestern Michigan College has created the Accoe Family Endowment honoring the prominent Wayne Township farm family with that name.
Renewable scholarships from the $8,000 endowment portion of the gift will be awarded starting in the Fall 2020 at SMC, and recipients must maintain at least a 2.0 grade-point average to maintain their standing.
The other $2,000 is earmarked for four one-time $500 scholarships evenly disbursed between Spring 2019 (Jonathan Tharp), Fall 2019 (Nathaniel Mortimore), Spring 2020 and Fall 2020.
Dr. Carole Schmidt is the Foundation President at SMC. She says, “I have known the Accoes for a number of years and am extremely appreciative of their loyalty and support for SMC.”
Richard J. “Butch” Accoe, a three-term Cass County commissioner in the late 1990s and early 2000s, wanted to recognize his parents, Marcellus Highway dairy farmers Richard M. and Pauline Accoe.
The Accoes were united in South Bend on Feb. 19, 1944, and were married for 64 years until he died at the age of 87 on March 28, 2008. She passed away Sept. 25, 2017, at the age of 93.
The oldest of their four children says, “They worked hard all their lives,” and adds, “Mom was a 4-H leader for about 40 years. Dad was a dairy leader and on the fair board.” He was also on the Michigan Holstein Association board and advised the Future Farmers of America and 4-H.
The Cass County Fair celebrated Pauline as “Homemaker of the Year” in 1993.
Accoe says, “The first year we were at the Cass fair was 1956,” and notes, “She was there the last year before she died to watch grandkids and great-grandkids show. My dad talked about walking behind a plow with a horse as a kid, getting an acre a day.”
Accoe and his wife, Lynn, both earned SMC associate degrees. He studied accounting, taking advantage of a retraining program when Sundstrand left Dowagiac. She studied medical management and worked for a doctor’s office in Paw Paw. They met in 4-W 4-H and have been married for 55 years.
Butch says, “My brother, Mike, took his first two years here, then transferred to Michigan State University. Two of my (four) daughters graduated from SMC and a third took some classes.” Accoe grandchildren have also attended SMC.
Accoe was in Dowagiac’s Class of 1963, the second graduated from Union High School. His other siblings are Kathrine, who taught elementary school for LaVille for 36 years, and Dave. Mike, Kathrine and Dave each have three children.
He says, “All three of us boys were in FFA,” adding, “Mike was a state officer. I was a regional officer. There are a lot of girls in the family, but I’ve got five great-grandsons. The sixth should be here next month.”
Accoe’s farm operated from Twin Lakes Road, though, he says, “I rented a lot of ground. At one time I was farrowing 500 sows outside. I farmed fulltime for 10 years, until ’97. Even when I got out, I did grain farming and had some cows. I also worked in a doctor’s office, like my wife, for about five years when I was county commissioner, then sold real estate for 10 years until I retired.”
SMC’s foundation accepts contributions to existing scholarships in addition to establishing new scholarships. Direct donations can be sent to: SMC Foundation, Director of Development, 58900 Cherry Grove Road, Dowagiac, MI 49047. You can also contact Nate Swords at (269) 782-1301 or firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.
The photo accompanying this story on Moody on the Market is purely for illustration purposes only, and is not intended to depict the Accoe family farm in any other way.