Portrait of a Philanthropist
Armed with a degree in industrial education and concentration in electrical engineering from Purdue University, Canton native Don Colaner was well-prepared to pursue a career that blended his two passions: education and electrical engineering.
Colaner taught in the advanced electrical program at Timken High School (his alma mater) for five years, until a growing family and a child with a costly medical condition forced him to take a higher-paying job in industry. A passion for teaching energized him to continue his classroom pursuits while working full-time for a local electrical construction and engineering company. By day, Colaner was a project engineer, then corporate manager and, ultimately, president of Hilscher-Clarke Electric Company. By night, he was an instructor of electrical apprentices and other students at Canton Area Technical School (now Stark State College), preparing hundreds of students for their chosen field. Colaner credits his wife Pauline for enabling him to pursue careers in business and teaching while raising their six children.
“While I was always supportive of Stark State’s mission to prepare people for the workforce, it was my teaching experience and association with the College that convinced me of its importance to our community’s economic well-being,” said Colaner.
After nearly 50 years in industry and 30 years in teaching, Colaner became a director of the Stark State Foundation. He and four other board members (Gene DeChellis, Jim Powell, Bill Strohmenger and Charlene Corlette) have provided the leadership for the Instructional Equipment component of the Foundation’s Changing Lives…Building Futures Campaign. In addition to generously providing personal equity, networking and hard work to the Campaign, the Colaners have established a named scholarship endowment and announced a planned gift to the College through a Charitable Remainder Trust.
Colaner is characteristically humble and matter-of-fact in discussing the gifts. “One of the things you’d like to do in the limited number of years that you have left is provide for your family and grandchildren and see good things happen to them. Your planning goes into some of that. Then, you look at the community and you think about what is important. That usually reflects on the experiences you had when you were working. Because I was involved in a local business as well as teaching and learning, my wife and I have made plans to use our resources in ways that provide long-term benefits that connect education with economic development,” he said.
“My connection with Stark State convinced me that there is a real need for this College in our community,” Colaner explained. “I believe in this College. I have watched it grow over the years and seen the great benefits it provides to students from all walks of life. Those students graduate and become productive members of this community. The students benefit and the companies they work for benefit. For Pauline and me, supporting Stark State College is one of the most important things we can do for the community – today and in the future.
“Stark State would have worked for me when I graduated from high school,” he added. “I see that holding true for a lot of other people as well. I see the need for the College and the fact that Stark State has been successful. I like the fact that Stark State’s degree and certificate programs provide students with the education and skills they need for immediate, rewarding employment. Those are a lot of good reasons for supporting this College.”
Note: It took some coaxing to convince Don Colaner, who is a modest, low-key person, to share his story. In fact, Don’s only goal in doing so is to encourage others to include Stark State College in their charitable planning.