Like any successful entrepreneur, Bill Stout knows all about investments. But his most compelling investments are the ones he and his wife Sandy make to the future of their community.
“My parents stressed education and self-responsibility,” Bill said. “You can’t expect a different outcome than what you’ve invested in yourself. Education is a gateway to a successful life.”
Sandy’s vocation is education, first as a teacher, then an administrator and educational consultant. Her parents were not college graduates, but they believed education was indispensable for their children’s future.
“Being a teacher is the ultimate in community service,” Bill says of his wife’s long career. “You become the neighborhood teacher for all the kids.”
Sandy’s road to success was not handed to her. “It was encouragement. I kept meeting people who saw something in me I didn’t see in myself,” she remembered. “When I was accepted into a doctoral program and got a scholarship, my father cried.”
Through their scholarship funds, the Stouts are now inspiring other parents to cry. They are motivated by the students they help, like the first-generation Cal U student who spoke at a dinner, saying, “I don’t belong here. I was born in a trailer to addicted parents.”
“That brought tears to my eyes,” Bill said. “She’s a shining star who pulled herself up through the power of education and encouragement. “
Sandy agrees. “It’s indescribable how we feel.”
It’s not only their work in education that prompted the WCCF to name them the 2014 Philanthropists of the Year. They are the motive power behind the WCCF’s innovative building project: creating a foundation headquarters, charity training center and a Scotch-Irish museum at the historic Samuel T. Brownlee House on Brownlee Road (State Route 519) in Eighty Four.
The Brownlee House, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was the company headquarters when Bill ran Alas Railroad Construction. When he sold the company and retired, he put the house on the market.
“For everyone who came and looked, we found reasons why they should not buy it,” Bill admitted. “The house was our baby; we wanted to protect it.“
When the Stouts considered donating the house to the Community Foundation, everything fell into place. “My ancestors were Scotch–Irish farmers, so I am enthusiastic about the museum aspect. It’s better to return the house to the community. We are serious about preserving it and its history.”
They spoke of the house as their baby, but talking about the animals they’ve helped brought sparkle to their eyes and enthusiasm to their voices. In addition to supporting local animal causes, they have given their time and resources to rescue dogs, cats, a dozen horses, and two donkeys on their Nottingham farm.
“It was wonderful to see something struggling come back to life,” Bill said.
More than his accomplishments, his deepest pride is expressed when he speaks of his wife of nearly 40 years.
“Sandy is an overachiever,” he laughs. “When she received an award as outstanding Cal U alumni, the citation read, ‘You are a true role model for all the students from California University.’ And that’s so true.”
They have a similar outlook on life: serving the community is a necessity, with responsibility and respect for self and others at the center.
Sandy expanded on that: “If you are able to help people, it is not necessary to give money; it’s important to do whatever you can to help the people who need it.”
“We’ll always be part of Washington County,” Bill promised. “Our lives are about service. We love the county and will always support the community as much as we can.”
By Dorothy Tecklenburg
William Stout has been involved with numerous community organizations and programs including: Meadowcroft Rockshelter & Historic Village (a program of the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania), Washington Hospital Foundation, Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, and Washington & Jefferson College's Board of Trustees. Additionally, he is a recipient of the Maurice Cleveland Waltersdorf Award for Innovative Leadership presented by Washington & Jefferson College.
Dr. Saundra Stout is a Danforth Foundation Scholarship recipient. She has been active with the Foundation for California University, the Pittsburgh Opera Association (Past President), and Pigeon Creek Presbyterian Church. Additionally, she has served as an educational consultant for the Carnegie Science Center. In 2010, Dr. Stout was honored with the CAL U Distinguished Alumni Award.