Pontotoc native bequeaths donation to Northwest Foundation

ElsieBlankedonationThe Northwest Mississippi Community College Foundation is pleased to announce a special donation to the Ed and Grace Dandridge Endowment. The endowment was established in 2004 by Northwest instructor Joan Rose, friends and family members for students majoring in pre-engineering at Northwest. This past September Grace Dandridge’s sister, Elsie Blanke of Pontotoc passed away and bequeathed $39,500 to the Dandridge scholarship. She also left a donation to Blue Mountain College, her alma mater.

“We are extremely grateful to Mrs. Blanke for including the Northwest Foundation in her estate planning. An additional debt of gratitude goes to Joan Rose, retired Northwest instructor, for establishing the Dandridge endowment many years ago. It is because that endowment was already established that Mrs. Blanke included our college,” Sybil Canon, associate vice president of development and special projects. Canon noted that the Foundation will also receive an additional donation once Blanke’s home is sold, pursuant to her will.

While Blanke never attended Northwest, she had a connection to the college through her sister Grace Dandridge. Both of Ed and Grace Dandridge’s sons attended Northwest, as well as several of their grandchildren.

Blanke was born to Marlin and Sue Stanford Griffin of Pontotoc. She graduated from Pontotoc High School in 1937 and earned her bachelor’s of science degree in business from Blue Mountain College in 1941. Six of the seven sisters in the Griffin family attended and graduated from Blue Mountain.

In 1945, she married Joesph Blanke and the two moved to Hattiesburg. She taught school in Richton, Miss. for two years before beginning a 40-year career with Hercules Power Company as the payroll and benefits supervisor.

When Blanke’s husband passed away in 1996, her family persuaded her to return to Pontotoc. She moved across the street from her sister Wilma Chittom, whose husband had also passed away. “We just became traveling buddies. She loved to travel and to shop. “When we got ready to go somewhere, we just went,” Chittom said.  The two sisters loved to travel to Branson, Mo. and for several years, went to hear evangelist Dr. David Jeremiah speak on his Senior Adult Celebrators tours.

Although Blanke had no children of her own, she was like a grandmother to her siblings’ children. In the summers, she would invite the children to come to her home in Hattiesburg for what the children lovingly referred to as “Camp Blanke.” Blanke was a great cook, and she would cook meals and deliver them to area shut-ins. She was an active member of First Baptist Church of Pontotoc, where she was active with the Women’s Missionary Union. She enjoyed playing bridge with her bridge club, exercising and reading. “She was the oldest sister, and we always felt like she was the glue that held us together, “ Chittom said.

Northwest President Dr. Gary Lee Spears expressed gratitude for the gift. “While we did not have the pleasure of meeting and knowing Mrs. Elsie Blanke, her legacy will be felt at this college for generations to come. She has not only honored her sister, Mrs. Grace Dandridge, but, through her generosity, students will be helped as long as this college exists,” Spears said.

For more information about the Northwest Foundation, contact Canon at 662-560-1103 or e-mail srcanon@northwestms.edu.

Pictured: Northwest Mississippi Community College President Dr. Gary Lee Spears, center, accepts a $38,000 donation to the Ed and Grace Dandridge Endowment from the sisters of Elsie Blanke of Pontotoc, who was also Mrs. Dandridge’s sister. Pictured left to right are Clarice Duff, Marlene Michael, Spears, Wilma Chittom and Sybil Canon, associate vice president of development and special projects. (Photo by LaJuan Tallo)

Story by LaJuan Tallo, Communications Assistant

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