Branchville Correctional Facility Memorial Scholarship
The North to South corridor in Perry County is usually Highway 37. Many resident and visitors traverse the road on a daily basis either returning to Tell City or going to Interstate 64 to take a longer trip. The drive during the spring, summer and fall is especially pleasant with acres and acres of Hoosier National forest surrounding the road. The view offers trees of many species and if you want to travel off the road a bit, you can go hiking or fishing at any of the three lakes in the area, Celina, Indian and Tipsaw.
What would surprise most visitors to the area that just a few miles south on highway 37 from the Interstate resides a medium security prison that houses over 1300 offenders with 352 employees. The prison is nestled in the middle of the National Forest built upon the site of a Job Corps from the depression era. In 1982 it was reopened, repaired, remodeled and eventually completely reconstructed to serve as an additional prison for Indiana. In 1982, Rich Clark was hired to supervise the warehouse operations. With the new prison needing more and more qualified staff, Rich rose up through the ranks to become Assistant Superintendent. In 1997 he was ready to run a prison on his own and transferred as Superintendent to the Putnamville Correctional Facility. While there he came across an interesting bit of information. He learned that his current prison was attempting to build an endowed scholarship fund through their local community foundation. It was a new concept for him, but one he embraced. At the time of his arrival in 1997, the fund had around $2,000 in it, but by the time he left in 1999, it had made it to the minimum and made its first grant.
When Rich returned home to eventually take over the reins as Superintendent of the Branchville Correctional Facility; he thought why not work on a scholarship fund for Branchville. Foundation Coordinator, Kim Embrey met with him in 2002 and they both wondered if they could ever raise the $10,000 minimum. Rich began talking about the fund to employees, labor management personnel, the human resource department and anyone else he thought might be interested. Rich worked to get the Community Foundation listed as one of the choices on the State Employee’s Community Campaign, which is a payroll deduction plan for employees where they can serve their charitable interests. Within a short time employees were giving through payroll deduction. The first year it was only a few employees, but by years 2 and 3 it was growing fast with much commitment from the employees. So in fiscal year 2005, the fund had grown enough to make its first scholarship award.
When asked why he pushed so hard to build this resource, Rich said, “Actually I had three reasons, the first being that the State of Indiana does not have a program for employees to continue their education and many employees at Branchville are non-traditional students who are juggling work and school and anything we can do to assist them is appreciated. Finally, I find it wonderfully exciting to know that this fund will continue to grow and grow, making bigger awards and at some point in time, multiple awards will be possible.”
The criteria was created to give first preference to employees at Branchville, but in the event that there are no employees eligible, then employee’s children apply, so the scholarship will never go unused.
Finally, Rich said, “Yes, I had the idea, but without the support from our employees to grow the fund, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”