Norma Moretz Horvitz describes her memoir, Norma Sue: an Ordinary Extraordinary Life, as the story of a girl born in the poorest part of the country during the deep Depression in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina.
Norma learned of Berea College in 1988, when she received a solicitation in the mail that included a reproduction of a postcard from 1935. The postcard was addressed “to the president of a college somewhere in Kentucky where boys can work their way through school.” Remarkably, the postcard made it all the way from rural Georgia to Berea, and the young man was accepted and later became a dentist.
“I can’t tell you how many solicitation letters I receive from every charity under the sun,” Norma said. “But this one grabbed my attention. I thought it was a brilliant solicitation tool. I knew I would open that envelope.”
The letter inside told the story of that boy and other students from the Appalachian region who were able to attend Berea College through the generosity of donors whose money goes directly to providing tuition.
“It related that every student is required to work,” Norma explained. “The letter described Berea’s mission to be tuition-free and asked if I wanted to be a part of the group that would sustain it. I decided yes—this is something worthwhile.”
A few years ago, Norma described the impact the mailer had on her to Berea’s College Relations team and suggested that it be reprised. It was, and the aged postcard performed so well that it was made part of a recurring donor acquisition package. It remains one of our most effective ways to attract new donors to the College.
“It’s a good feeling to know that you contributed to something good and worthwhile.”
After Norma sent in her first gift in October of 1988, some Berea folks did some research and surprised Norma with the news that her father had attended Berea for a short time.
“Berea sent me a copy of his transcript,” she recalled. “My father was a really good student though he never received a degree. That endeared me even more to Berea, and I started a scholarship in his name.”
For more than 30 years, Norma’s philanthropy has involved hands-on support of and direct donations toward helping young people achieve a higher quality of life through education, as well as a variety of other charity work. At Berea, in addition to the scholarship, Norma also funded the purchase of a nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer, a machine more commonly found at large research universities used for observing the magnetic fields around atomic nuclei. Most recently, Norma funded the NMR laboratory in the College’s newly-built Margaret A. Cargill Natural Sciences and Health Building.
“It’s a good feeling to know that you contributed to something good and worthwhile,” Norma said. “It’s a selfish act because of the good feeling it gives you. It feels good to do good.”
Norma expresses hope that her philanthropic efforts will inspire others to follow. “If I could have any influence, it would be that people recognize Berea’s mission the way I did and feel it is worthy of support.”