When Julie Maroney’s father, Donald Drebus ‘51, passed away in 2019, she wanted to do something positive with a portion of the proceeds from his estate.
“I thought about it for a little while,” she says from her home in North Carolina. “And then it hit me. I felt like I wanted to give something back to Ashland University for him.”
Once you understand Donald’s story, the gift makes perfect sense.
Born in 1929 to a single mother, times were hard. “I never heard the whole story,” Julie says, “but at a very young age, he was put in a foster home. Which ended up being the best thing in the world for him.”
His foster family, the Gaults, lived on Main Street in Ashland and owned a farm. From a very early age, Donald helped out on the farm each morning and evening and learned the value of hard work. As he grew up, his athletic talent became apparent to anyone watching him play basketball and football and run track at Ashland High School. So much so that one day Donald was approached by a surprising source with an even more surprising offer.
Julie says: “The Meyers family in Ashland sat him down and told him they would pay for him to attend Ashland College. Full tuition, everything. The only thing he had to do was promise to play sports throughout his time there. So he did.”
For those unaware of this part of local history, the Myers family had a tremendous impact on the region. In the mid-19th century, F.E. Myers and his brother Philip grew up on a farm outside Ashland. (Interestingly enough, their neighbors, the Studebakers, would later move to South Bend, Indiana, to found the eponymous automobile brand.) After a few failed startups, the brothers eventually began manufacturing water pumps and hay tools, growing the businesses into two of the area’s preeminent employers throughout the 20th century and setting the stage for nearly a century of economic stability for the town. The offer to Donald is just one example of the family’s penchant for generosity.
A standout three-sport star, Donald led the Eagles for all four years. “Without this offer,” says Julie, “he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to attend college. He was eternally grateful for this chance for the rest of his life.”
Donald graduated in 1951 and, after receiving his teaching license, went into a career teaching high school history. He also coached football and basketball throughout his life.
“He was a great dad,” Julie remembers. “So positive. So supportive. He could’ve looked at his early life and decided he was a victim. Instead, he used those events as kind of a benchmark for how much he was able to do afterward. Like, ‘look at how far I’ve come.’”
In 2020, Julie made gifts in her father’s name to both the football and men’s basketball programs at Ashland.
“He always talked about the impact Ashland had on him,” says Julie. “That’s why I made the donation. It would have made him happy to know that his gift might help another young athlete be able to afford to attend Ashland.”