Boutwell Family Matching Grant Will Help Expand Holocaust Education Across North Florida
Many of North Florida's public school districts lack the resources to fulfill the state's Holocaust education requirement. Now a Tallahassee family is offering a large matching grant to attract more public donations to this effort.
Just under half-a-century ago,Ken Boutwell co-founded Tallahassee's MGT of America, which provides consulting services to public sector organizations. He has been the firm's president and CEO ever since. But he said it was an experience his late wife Jean had not long ago that has had a dramatic impact on his life.
"Jean was in Rabbi Romberg's Lunch 'n Learn, which had both Jewish and Christian people in it. And Jean claimed it was the best religious discussion she ever had in her life. She came home talking about all the people that were in that class and Barbara Goldstein with the Holocaust Education Resource Council was in that class and Jean started talking about all that Barbara is doing," he recalled.
Boutwell said that motivated him to meet the woman who'd impressed his wife so greatly.
"I got interested in the Holocaust. Barbara loaded me down with books and I started reading and in the process learned all that Barbara was trying to do, but she was trying to do it on a shoestring. Barbara is one person who left a high-paying State job to take this job at a much lower pay and dedicate her life to it."
Things changed dramatically and tragically in November of 2020, when Jean Boutwell passed away. Her husband Ken said he and grown children, Jennifer and Jeff, considered an appropriate tribute. Supporting the Holocaust Education Resource Council - also known as HERC - seemed the obvious choice.
"We decided we needed to see what we could do to help, particularly in remembrance of Jean."
Boutwell said that remembrance will take the form of a very large challenge grant.
"As our family has said, for every dollar that you contribute, we'll match that dollar with another dollar up to $60,000."
President of the HERC board, Segundo Fernandez, explained that any amount of financial help is desperately needed.
"The State mandates that the Holocaust be taught as part of our public school curricula, but it doesn't fund those programs."
HERC Executive Director Barbara Goldstein said school districts in the more rural and revenue-challenged parts of North Florida are particularly deprived.
"We don't have any outreach currently in other areas of North Florida, but they are so absolutely not getting it at all."
Which is why, she said, the Boutwell Challenge Grant is so greatly appreciated.
"We want to make sure every teacher knows what they're needing and so we give them all that, but we can do it more and better and with more assistance with the funding they will give us."
Which, she insisted, will mean that every school district in the region will be able to provide a full and comprehensive program of Holocaust awareness instruction to students.
"When you go to these teachers or the teachers come to us, they leave with such a great wealth of knowledge and level of confidence that they can now go back to their classrooms and their schools and teach their students the history they're supposed to be doing."
With the recent resurgence of anti-Semitism, Challenge Grant originator Ken Boutwell called the campaign "critical."
"I read the other day that one of the survivors said, 'I'm telling my story so that my past will not be your future.'"
An imperative that HERC Board President Segundo Fernandez believed will become even more essential as time goes on.
"Pretty soon, the historical memory will be diluted. And without an organization like HERC preserving this history for future generations, wasn't it the 19th history philosopher Santayana who said, 'Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it?'"
Donations to the Holocaust Education Resource Council can be made on the organization's web site.