Throughout this year, the Wayne County Foundation is highlighting several of our donors through blog posts. This initiative aims to understand their story and how their philanthropic endeavors create positive impacts in the community. For our first donor story, we talked with Jim Howell, who, along with his wife Sharon, established the Jim and Sharon Howell Scholarship Fund.    

Read below to learn more about Jim and Sharon’s story and what inspired them to create a scholarship fund through the Foundation.    

The Scholarship Fund

The Jim and Sharon Howell Scholarship Fund was established in 2021 and is awarded to Wayne County high school seniors who plan to pursue a degree in a STEM field and demonstrate financial need. It applies to public or private 2-year or 4-year accredited institutions and technical schools.    

Why the focus on STEM fields? It would help if you looked at the Howell Family story to answer that question.

A Family of Farmers and Engineers

One thing to understand about the Howells is they are a family of farmers and engineers. Jim holds an undergraduate degree and graduate degrees in agricultural economics and spent part of his professional career in farm management before returning to Wayne County to run the family farm. Sharon was a career engineer and played a prominent role on the farm.    

Jim and Sharon married in 1968 and lived abroad in Brazil while Jim worked for United States Agency for International Development (USAID). They returned to Wayne County in 1981 to help run the family farm, in which they are still involved. Their two kids followed in their mother’s footsteps to become engineers.   

Throughout the years, the family became involved in the Wayne County community through Hagerstown Young Farmers and several local boards. Jim served on the Wayne County Plan Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals, while Sharon was on the board of the Whitewater Valley REMC for several years.  

Purposeful Giving

The Howells have always seen the value in continuing education. Even before attending Purdue, Jim realized attending college would open a world of opportunities. However, for some students, several barriers may prevent them from continuing their educational pursuits.   

This led to the creation of the scholarship fund to help give students in need the opportunities Jim and Sharon had by pursuing higher education. As Jim says, there are a lot of bright kids out there, and sometimes they need to be given a chance.   

“I would rather help somebody with their education,” said Howell. “I think the long-term payoff is a lot better for a lot of these young people whose families do not have the resources to do it.”   

When setting up the fund, Jim and Sharon understood that students take different education routes and have different learning capabilities. This is why the fund goes beyond four-year degrees and covers two-year and vocational programs.    


Education is an investment that can have a life-changing impact on people. Everyone should have the chance to experience it. The Jim and Sharon Howell Scholarship Fund helps make this a reality. Jim also noted that when these students in need have that chance, they can help elevate their families.   

“The goal here is to help somebody to be able to go to college,” stated Jim. “So, they may be able lift their family economically beyond what they would be able to realize otherwise.”  

For the Howells, it is about giving students opportunities.    

Philanthropic Advice

Trying to start your philanthropic journey can be an overwhelming process. The Howells spent much time deciding where to donate their funds and what approaches to giving to pursue. They also researched and learned about the organizations to which they contribute. Outside of the Wayne County Foundation, they also give to the Wesley Foundations at Sharon’s alma mater, Sam Houston State, Jim’s alma mater, Purdue, and other charitable organizations.   

For people interested in philanthropy, Jim says, “If you can, then do it.” He has consistently found that organizations like the Wayne County Foundation are great places to put your charitable donations.    

Establishing the scholarship funds allowed them to address local issues and create positive impacts for those in need. Philanthropy gives people the option not only to use their funds for charitable purposes but also to extend a helping hand to the community.  

Are you interested in giving? Visit our website’s Ways to Give page to learn about the various ways you can give to the Foundation.