When Ralph Birkel heard of the economic devastation in Appalachia correlating to the declining coal economy, he said to his wife, Helen, “We have to do something.” After reading an article about Alice Lloyd College in 2010, they knew just how they were going to do something to help.
In the early 1920s, Anton & Augusta Birkel came to America from Germany. They had one son, whom they named Ralph. In 1950, Mr. Ralph Birkel graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in engineering and began a career in nuclear power plant design, construction operations and regulations at the Hanford works of the Atomic Energy Commission in Richland, Washington. This was the location of the first reactors to produce materials for the United States atomic bombs. During his thirty-five year career, he was employed with the General Electric Co., The Westinghouse Nuclear Power Division and other entities, including the Atomic Energy Commission (now the U.S Nuclear Regulatory Commission). Mr. Birkel retired from his career as a nuclear engineer in 1985.
As a first-generation American citizen, Ralph values the principle of hard work established here at Alice Lloyd College. Being one of seven colleges in the work-college consortium, ALC requires all students work on campus as a condition of enrollment. Although students receive a tuition-guarantee, Ralph admires that they are willing to earn their character-based education.
When Alice Lloyd College decided to begin a dual-degree BSN program, Ralph and Helen were among the first to volunteer to help. As trustees of a small, family foundation named in honor of Anton & Augusta Birkel, Ralph and Helen made a gift to the college. This gift was to establish an endowed scholarship for those students working towards their BSN. The Anton & Augusta Birkel Foundation Trust ALC Nursing Endowed Scholarship Fund was established in 2013 and was one of the very first gifts to help ALC get the dual-degree program up and running. Currently, there are approximately 30 students enrolled in this program. Thanks to the generosity of Ralph and Helen, and so many others across the country, these students will have the opportunity to achieve their dreams!
Ralph and Helen currently reside in Reedville, Virginia, and travel often to Savannah, Georgia, with their German shepherd, Raisin. Alice Lloyd College is forever grateful and thankful for the generosity of these two wonderful individuals!