Ozark Native Donates $3 Million to Local Colleges

By Grant Sloan | gsloan@kolr10.com

Published 06/19 2014 06:24PM

Updated 06/19 2014 06:58PM

POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. -- An "Ozark Mountain Son" is honored for giving away his estate and more than half his life earnings. Friends and community members gathered at College of the Ozarks Thursday for the unveiling of a bronze bust of David Dean Lewis.

Lewis was the first in his family to graduate from college, and wanted to make sure others in his community has the same opportunity.

After his death in 2009, he donated more than $3 million to Ozark area colleges.

"For a long time, he wouldn't let me talk to anyone about it," says life long friend Jerry Redfern. "He didn't need anyone to pat him on the back."

After Lewis was diagnosed with cancer in 2007, Redfern helped his friend donate his family estate and most of his life earnings to the community he loved.

Those who knew Lewis say his message to others was: "you make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give."

"He didn't need anyone to tell him that, he did it because he wanted to do it, that's just absolutely special," says Redfern.

Three $1 million checks were given to Drury, College of the Ozarks and Ozarks Technical Community College. The endowment funds will keep accruing interest to be used for scholarships, helping college students for years to come.

"He saw that those three schools together could carry the full gambit for students," says OTC President Hal Higdon. "For a student who many have difficult finical problems, may not have all the advantages, to a student who come from a better prepared environment."

Lewis himself, grew up in the former category, in Rockaway Beach during the '30s.

After graduating from college, Lewis worked at Sears for nearly 40 years, and made much of his wealth through investing in the stock market. However without any heirs he decided to give nearly everything he had back to the community he loved.

"I think that when you are the first in your family to get the higher education, you have a deeper appreciation," say Higdon. "And then you want to give help to that next generation."

Lewis’ impact will also go well beyond the classroom. In addition to his donations to the colleges he also gave his 362-acre homestead to Missouri's Department of Conservation.

"Kind of savanna grass land area, some glade areas," says Department of Conservation Resource Forester, Greg Cassell, "It's very close to Branson, so its a great place for everyone to come and visit."

A 1.6 mile trail leads down to Bull Creek, and along the way visitors will pass the childhood home of Lewis; the place where he learned the value of hard work from his parents, and what it meant to give back to others.

"Your mission should be to help those along the way," says Hal Higdon, "I think that resonates with all of us."

Lewis also gave an addition $100,000 to each college for it’s emergency funds. An additional $40-50,000 is expected to go to Camp Lookout, a free summer camp for kids.


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