THE SEELINGER FAMILY: A REFLECTION GIVEN
BY DR. TOM DOTSON
Sitting down with Dr. Tom Dotson on September 9, 2021, he gives a brief reflection of the Seelinger Family and how they remain a big part of Summersville today…
Dr. Dotson narrative:
“I feel compelled to narrate the story of generosity and giving that is unique to Summersville, WV. It involves the Seelinger Family Foundation. I am the lone survivor of the original Seelinger Family Foundation Board of Directors, who is now serving on the Grant Committee of the Nicholas County Community Foundation since the transition of the Family Foundation to the NCCF. There are two generations now who probably have an idea who the Seelinger family was.
Terry Seelinger and Bob Kamm started Terry Eagle Coal Company in the early 1970’s and they were fortunate enough to be a part of the “Coal Boom”. Terry was an extremely hard-working individual who woke at 3 or 4 am and started ordering his supplies at 5am much to supplier’s dismay. He would decide which of 3 offices to visit that day to keep them on their toes.
Mr. Seelinger and I had a unique professional and personal relationship. I spent many days and weeks traveling as his guest hunting and fishing. I accompanied him on trips to western Canada, the Great Lakes and the Florida Keys. Unfortunately, he died very young in 1987.
His personal generosity is not known to many. Mr. Seelinger made a large donation to WVU to with which the School of Medicine was able to establish the Dr. Edmund B. Flink WVUSOM Library. Also, he started the funding of nine different scholarship grants at West Virginia University, which still exist today, including three in Medicine, three in Mining and Engineering and three in the School of Business.
I have been involved in the selection committee for the WVU School of Medicine since 1987 and continue to serve on that committee.
In 1988, Francis Seelinger called me to ask if I would serve on the Board of a Foundation she was starting. The original foundation board gathered at the Greenbrier hotel and hammered out the workings of a charitable foundation in the Seelinger Family name. The original individuals were Francis, daughter Kay Duvall, Accountant Doug Ellis from Charleston and Tom Freeman and Craig Kay who were attorneys involved in Seelinger business. That Sunday afternoon, the foundation was funded and continues today as a part of the NCCF.
A majority of the day was spent with Mrs. Seelinger, listening to her desires of how she wished the charitable donations to be distributed. After deliberation, a mission statement was developed under the direction of Mrs. Seelinger with priority given to education, entertainment and the arts, historical preservation and community beautification. Francis strongly indicated that since Terry made his money in the Summersville area that the primary beneficiaries should be in and around the Summersville area. The Foundation Board met annually at various locations. After reviewing grant applications, money was distributed under the guidance of the original mission statement. Historic preservation was directed primarily to Old Main, since this is the only historic building remaining in Summersville besides the Courthouse. However, sometimes the Brown House receives funding due to historical significance due to social activities directed by the town of Summersville.
Ivy and Stone was the recipient for many years for the portion of the funds to arts and entertainment with min of $10,000 each year. Unfortunately, Ivy and Stone is longer a functional group. This group, which brought theatre, music and entertainment to Summersville dissolved in 2017, leaving behind a scholarship fund within the NCCF.
Education funds were given as annual grant to NCHS, $18,000 given to Pat Matheney to distribute to her staff, then giving a report at end of year as to how money was spent. After Pat retired, this process stopped. Money is now distributed in other ways.
Community beautification is evident all over Summersville, streetlights, sidewalks, Memorial Park Veteran’s projects, swimming pool upgrades, basketball and tennis court updates, 4H buildings, baseball dugouts.
As Mrs. Seelinger approached her final years, the burden of the Seelinger Family Foundation became too much, so she had the Family Foundation money transferred to a public foundation. She heavily considered Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation. Through the efforts of myself and Bill and Patty Bright, Francis was convinced instead to use the NCCF as a repository for the Seelinger Family Foundation funds as a separate category. Francis asked me to represent her in the transfer. I have served since that time. My function is primarily to guide the foundation in the fund distributions according to the primary mission statement that Francis had originally outlined.
As I grow older, I do not believe that there is anyone to assume the role and responsibility as an advocate for Mrs. Seelinger and the Seelinger family in the future. I have certainly given it my best effort over the last many years.
I convinced Kay to donate her house to the Foundation when she moved to Cincinnati. We used these funds for the Seelinger Scholarship Fund. My hope for the future is that someone will take over my function and my role in this endeavor, to continue to represent the interest that the Seelinger Foundation and Mrs. Seelinger specifically outlined at the distribution meetings. I hope that all involved as beneficiaries of these funds appreciate the sacrifice and efforts of this wonderful family and their contributions to the Summersville community.”
On behalf of the Board of the Directors of the Nicholas County Community Foundation, I would like to thank Dr. Dotson for this historical reference, his time invested to the community through his efforts with the Seelinger Family Foundation and the Nicholas County Community Foundation. I also wish to give a special note of thanks to the Seelinger Family and Ms. Kay Duvall for the contributions and support that the family has brought to our community for all these years and for years to come. If you would like to learn more about the Nicholas County Community Foundation, please visit our website at www.nccfwv.com and follow us on Facebook. Tamara Mullins, Executive Director can be reached by email at [email protected] or telephone at (304)872-0202.