Former Student Bequeaths Millions To Pearl River Community College

It's the largest cash gift ever given to a two year institution of higher learning in the State. Pearl River Community College in Poplarville has received nearly $4 million from a former student, the late Ethel Holden Brownstone.

School leaders says they're extremely grateful.

"It goes without saying the amount of good that can come from this gift for this institution and this community for years and years to come is immeasurable," College President William Lewis said.

Lewis surrounded himself by relatives of the late Ethel Brownstone Thursday afternoon to express his gratitude for the generous $4 million donation.

"That's an overwhelming amount for an institution like ours."

Ethel Brownstone attended the school back in the early 1930s. She started life with humble beginnings before marrying a wealthy New York businessman. One of 11 children, she grew up on a farm in Pearl River County.

"She was a very kind and loving person. She had a great amount of faith. She loved the lord, she said that was the only thing important in life," one of Brownstone's relatives, Sandra Thomas, said.

Brownstone's late husband, Lucien, was a wealthy businessman in the garment industry. The couple owned 26 men's clothing stores across the nation.

Thomas says Brownstone loved Pearl River Community College.

"She had very fond memories of going to school here."

Brownstone's cousin, Ethel Ladner, echoed those words.

"She believed in getting a good education. That's probably why she gave the money."

In fact, Brownstone paid most of her relatives' way through college. School leaders say some of the money donated to the college will be used to help put others through school.

Students who already receive scholarships know how it will help.

"This is really helping people go on to college who might not have," freshman Sheena Johnson said.

School leaders say it's a gift that students will benefit from for years to come.

Brownstone died in 1996, but her will was contested and that delayed this gift to the college. A Brownstone committee is being set up to determine exactly where the money will be spent.

She also gave more than a million dollars each to three churches, one of which was her hometown church in Pearl River County.

by Al Showers