Yale University President Peter Salovey delivered the keynote address at PromiseNet 2014 and told the tale of the 100-year view of the Promise movement. Here were his prepared remarks on Lake County, Oregon, and its Bernard Daly Education Fund.
When the Yale Corporation decided to approve funding for New Haven Promise back in 2010, it was with the expectation that the University was committed to playing a role in not just the growth and stability of the City, but to the long-term transformation of long-neglected neighborhoods of New Haven.
What could a City look like if its deep emphasis on education including making students strong and incentivized, creating affordable post-secondary options and establishing a pathway back to the City and a quality job.
And we can look to Kalamazoo, Mich., to catch a glimpse. After all, that was the first city to open up that high school-to-college pipeline, right? I’ve seen Dr. Janice Brown talking about the Kalamazoo Promise on 60 Minutes. I know that President Obama gave the commencement speech at Kalamazoo Central, where Von Washington, Jr., was principal. And recently, Business Insider reported that Kalamazoo was ranked among the nation’s most educated cities, ahead of places like Portland, Denver, Minneapolis and even New Haven! Let me add that we remain No. 1 in the nation for pizza.
Next year, Kalamazoo will host PromiseNet in honor of its 10th year of lifting its students.
But I want to know what it would mean to have even a longer view. Not 25 years. Not even 50 years. What would Promise mean to a town after 100 years?
Well. The town exists. It is at the foot of the Warner Mountains in the Oregon Outback. It goes by two nicknames, which are certainly related. Because it sits the better part of a mile above sea level, it is called the “Tallest Town In Oregon.”
The town is called Lakeview and its residents, along with those from the Lake County rival town of Silver Lake, have been receiving benefit of a Promise for 92 years now.
This means that we have to back up… back way up. Back in 1894, on the eve of Christmas, a fire broke out during a second-floor holiday celebration in isolated Silver Lake. It was a horrible event. It remains the worst in Oregon history as 43 people lost their lives. A local rancher rode 100 miles to Lakeview (yes, it’s a big county) to summon medical help and Dr. Bernard Daly drove his buggy through wintry roads and sub-zero temperatures for somewhere between 13 and 24 hours — depending on the source — to treat the unfortunate victims. Those efforts earned him recognition across the state.
Six years later, another fire broke out, this time in Lakeview itself. No one was killed, but 64 of the 66 buildings in the downtown area — most carrying significant amounts of merchandise — were destroyed. Amazingly, just five months later, 15 brick buildings had been constructed and three more had begun. The quick recovery was credited, in large part, to the financing and leadership of Dr. Daly, who had recently organized and opened the Bank of Lakeview.
So who was this Dr. Daly? He was born in Ireland and immigrated with his family to Selma, Alabama, when he was six. He went to college in Ohio and then med school at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. He joined the Army and was stationed in northern California, not far from where he’d end up in the Tallest Town in Oregon.
In addition to being a doctor and banker, he was also a state senator, a ranch, a county judge and a regent at what is now Oregon State University. He was also a businessman with more than a dozen companies — worth more than $1 million — at the time of his death in 1920.
His will read: “It is my earnest desire to help, aid and assist worthy and ambitious young men and women of my beloved county of Lake, to acquire a good education, so that they may be better fitted and qualified to appreciate and help to preserve the laws and constitution of this free country, defend its flag, and by their conduct as good citizens reflect honor on Lake county and the state of Oregon.”
With that he funneled much of his wealth to the creation of the Bernard Daly Educational Fund, which has now funded nearly 2,000 college educations. Daly Fund recipients have added millions of dollars back to the program and created new programs for county students. Sam Stern, the former Dean of the College of Education at Oregon State, reports “there is evidence that the Daly Fund has had considerable impact on the economy in Lakeview and beyond; health, community vitality, and philanthropy.”
It cannot go unnoticed that Lakeview, a town of 2,300 residents, has become a hub for renewable energy which includes a biomass facility and a geothermal power plant.
Perhaps because Lake County is so isolated, few people outside of Central and Southern Oregon know much about it. Unlike what happened with the watershed moment of the announcement of The Kalamazoo Promise, the Daly Fund — which still does not have a website — did not spawn imitators.
From a nearly 100-year view there is evidence that the Promise movement will work and the exciting thing here is that there are so many programs in attendance as well as others who are exploring.