In 1997, Robert J. Welch, a retired Amherst high School teacher and coach, unexpectedly passed away. Upon his death, Welch left a bequest totaling $25,000 to the Amherst Central Alumni Foundation, Inc. With this generous gift, the Alumni Foundation, which was established in 1980, recognized the need to begin a more formal process for identifying how it could enhance activities that support the school district’s many curriculums. Since 1992, the Foundation has proudly administered a program of “mini-grants” for faculty and Advancement Programs for students; money which is mostly raised through direct appeals to the Alumni Foundation. The Foundation’s primary mission has been and will continue to be to provide financial assistance to students and faculty who would benefit from enrichment activities which support the school’s curriculum, arts, music and athletic programs. In the past 20 years, the Alumni Foundation has distributed more than $100,000 in grants to students and faculty.
In the fall of 1998, Donald “Dimp” R. Wagner, Class of ’48, came to town to visit his old friends from High School – Rick ’48 and Nonnie ’47 (Donanne Seymour) Siegfried – and learned of the Alumni Foundation’s plan to raise funds to help construct a new track facility at the high school.
“I’d like to do that”, he told Nonnie and Rick, “I’d like to make a meaningful contribution to the project.”
Through his $110,000 commitment to the construction of the new track, Wagner became the single largest donor in the Foundation’s history. Many will remember that at the time, the high school track was the original cinder track from when the school was constructed in 1930. Several generations of athletes still have cinders embedded in their knees from spills on the antiquated track surface. Wagner’s incredible generosity enabled the Alumni Foundation to raise over $300,000 towards the project. The new track was named the “Dimp Wagner ’48 Alumni Field” in his honor. At the dedication in June of 2000, Wagner stated, “It’s like upgrading my own backyard. I feel fortunate to have had six great years at Amherst. I did not realize this until I slowed down a bit and took time to remember those good old days.”
Donald Wagner was known as “Dimp” (short for Dimples) throughout his high school years. His high school athletic career began as the equipment manager for the football team – a team he went on to quarterback during his sophomore and junior years and to captain his senior year. He was also a member of varsity track and basketball for three years, both of which were Section 6 Champions in his senior year. In addition to his athletic abilities, “Dimp” was also president of the National Honor Society and voted scholar-athlete of his class. Furthermore, he rounded out his resume as a member of the Marching Band, Amherst Symphony and choir.
Following graduation from Amherst, Dimp attended Dartmouth College and the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration at Dartmouth, where he received his MBA. He went on to a 30-year career with Grabber, a company founded by his brother John.
Until his death in 2009, Dimp lived with his wife, Loveday, in Annapolis, Maryland and Bradenton, Florida. He continued his support of his beloved Amherst annually with gifts benefitting the Alumni Foundation and the Lacrosse Program. Upon the passing of Dimp’s wife, Loveday, he once again remembered his much-loved alma mater, Amherst. Dimp bequeathed the Amherst Central Alumni Foundation, Inc. a breath-taking gift of more than $600,000 – a gift that entrusts the Alumni Foundation to continue its mission to “cherish the past…enhance the future” of the Amherst Central School District.
Recognizing the incredible trust in the Foundation that prompted Dimp to bestow this gift, ACAF, Inc. has established a private Foundation within the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo. This will enable the Alumni Foundation to fulfill Dimp’s legacy in perpetuity. A committee of Alumni Foundation Board members (Anne Harding Joyce ’70, chair; Joe Podgorski, retired High School principal; Susan Fretz ’73, ACAF, Inc. co-president Marilyn Rohl ’70, Erin Dengler ’04, Sam Shatkin ’75, Susan Hens Smith ’74 and Larry Ross ‘72) has been established to formulate a policy which will incorporate, recognized best practices in the distribution of Dimp’s generous gift to enable the Foundation to achieve maximum impact for decades to come.
Dimp’s classmate and lifelong friend, Nancy Henderson Naylon ’48 said this about him: “Dimp was a part of our 1930 group from School 18. He was a great man and loved being a leader in our class.”