A desire to help students succeed inspired Gary Dake ’67 to create and now endow a scholarship at the Colleges — but to get there, he took an unconventional path.
When Dake returned to campus for Reunion in 2017, it had been almost half a century since he’d spent time thinking about Hobart and William Smith. That’s because a week after graduating, he was drafted into the Vietnam War.
Dake enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, graduated from the pilot training program and spent time in the Strategic Air Command flying refueling tankers. Eventually assigned to a rescue helicopter, he spent a year in Da Nang and was honorably discharged in 1973. “I was a very different person after that,” he says. “Hobart was so far in my past, I could hardly remember that I’d been there.”
As a student, Dake was a member of the baseball and soccer teams and graduated with a degree in American history. While his major didn’t directly lead to his eventual career — more than 30 years in the construction industry, including founding DGA Builders LLC — over the years Dake began to realize that his time at the Colleges was critical to his success.
“It’s clear to me that my liberal arts education gave me the tools to communicate with people with diverse backgrounds,” he says. “That was a great advantage at DGA Builders, where I had to interface with a wide range of people, including business owners, architects, engineers, accountants, public officials, project managers and carpenters.”
That realization led Dake to reengage with the Colleges, beginning with his 50th Reunion. He then established the Gary A. ’67 and Myra Dake Endowed Scholarship Fund as a way of ensuring that current students have the same opportunity to build a strong academic foundation — no matter the path they take.
“I’m grateful that we can help some of these young people who are learning to think more widely about where they came from and what the world should look like,” he says. The permanent endowment fund is created to provide assistance to one or more HWS students who are academically qualified and have demonstrated financial need.
For Dake, the most rewarding part of creating the scholarship is hearing from students who benefit from it. “It’s very encouraging to get to know these hard-working young people, to hear what they’re studying and what they plan to do with their lives,” he says. “I’m hoping that the people coming out of the Colleges are the ones that will be leading this country one day.”
For more information about the Gary A. ’67 and Myra Dake Endowed Scholarship Fund or to learn how to create an endowed scholarship, contact Melissa Joyce-Rosen, Director of Leadership Giving in the Office of Advancement, at email@example.com or 315-781-3755.