A $500,000 donation from West Virginia University graduate Michael Manley of Morgantown will create two endowed scholarships for students in the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering.
A lot has changed since Manley received his master’s degree in computer science from WVU in 1975. Personal computers had yet to be invented, some businesses used mainframes, and many businesses just used pencil and paper. Tuition was about $100 per semester for in-state residents.
However, according to Manley, one thing has remained the same: the importance of a college education.
He worked his way up to senior programmer in WVU’s Computer Center after earning both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University, and then moved to the downtown campus to manage the Administrative Information Group (now Computing Services).
“WVU has given me not only an education from the formal perspective in the classroom, but also business life experiences that you get when you’re in a job,” Manley said.
Although he still lived in the area, Manley no longer had daily interaction with WVU after opening Software Systems, Inc., a Morgantown-based company, in 1975. He was reconnected with the University and its students in 2010 when he was inducted into the Lane Academy of Distinguished Alumni. In addition, he learned of the financial burden that college now places on many students.
“When I found out these challenges that kids now face, I thought there needs to be something done about this,” Manley said.
Around the time of his Lane Academy induction, he saw the effect of scholarships when his high school graduating class in northern Hancock County, decided to donate leftover money from its 50th class reunion to create scholarships for graduates of their alma mater, Oak Glen High School.
The timing seemed right for Manley to set up an endowment after noticing a need for scholarships a few years earlier. He recently paid off the mortgage on his office building and has no intentions of retiring.
“I’ve always saved all I could and put the max in my retirement account. I was surprised that when you reach a certain age, you’re required to start taking money out of that account, and aren’t allowed to put any more in,” Manley said. “You also reach the point where you need to start taking your Social Security benefits. I’ve setup 529 plans for my great-grandkids, and now have all I need for my family’s future.”
This leaves additional money that he feels should be used to help students.
“I feel guilty having extra money. I never had anything extra in my life, which I didn’t put back into my business, or family,” Manley said.
Manley says he was taught the importance of giving back to the community by the example his parents set when he was a child.
“Mom would take the extra money she had and put it in a drawer, and I knew where it was, but I never knew what it was for,” Manley said. “Somebody in the community would have a problem and she would dip into it and help them out, not wanting anyone to know. Dad was also always there to help everyone in the community.”
He hopes the two scholarships will cause a ripple effect after the recipients graduate.
“My intention is as these kids get these scholarships and they make their way through college and get a good job, maybe someday in the future when they have some cash, they can turn that back into a scholarship for somebody else,” he said.
The Manley Family Scholarship will be awarded annually to undergraduate and/or graduate students in the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. The Manley Family Oak Glen Scholarship will also be awarded to undergraduate and/or graduate students in the same department who are graduates of Oak Glen High School.
Both endowed scholarships were made through the WVU Foundation, the non-profit corporation that solicits and administers private donations on behalf of the University.