Old Friends, Strong Ties
For four decades, FVTC and J. J. Keller & Associates have worked together to help meet the region’s workforce needs.
Neenah-based J. J. Keller & Associates has long been committed to helping ensure the economic vitality of northeastern Wisconsin. Such a commitment is evident in the $20 million in contributions the J. J. Keller Foundation has made to organizations in the area. Over the years, Fox Valley Technical College has been one of many beneficiaries of the J. J. Keller Foundation’s generosity.
“We place great value on Fox Valley Technical College,” says Jim Keller, vice president and treasurer of the J. J. Keller Foundation, which was founded in 1991. “We’ve been supporting the college for the last 40 years. It’s a great partnership, and it has stood the test of time.”
J. J. Keller & Associates produces 6,000 safety and regulatory compliance products and services for 400,000 clients throughout the world, and has been a substantial supporter of FVTC’s Truck Driving program. “Our largest market is the transportation and truck driving market, and FVTC has one of the finest truck driving programs in the country,” Keller says. “It’s a big piece of the community.”
In 2004, a $500,000 contribution from the John J. & Ethel D. Keller Donor-Advised Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region was the lead gift for a community-wide campaign that generated $2.1 million for scholarships and special projects at FVTC. In recognition of this major lead gift and the Keller’s longtime support of the college, FVTC’s transportation center was renamed the J. J. Keller Transportation Center in November 2004.
Today it houses the college’s Truck Driving, Diesel, and Automotive programs. “I’m convinced that our program would not be in the position it’s in without the assistance of the J. J. Keller Foundation,” says Rob Behnke, a program advisor and instructor in FVTC’s Truck Driving program.
That program currently includes 48 semi-trucks and trailers, as well as five Class “B” commercial vehicles, according to Deborah Heath, FVTC’s dean of Transportation and Construction Technologies.
Thanks to a $400,000 gift in 1999 from the J. J. Keller Foundation, students practice driving those trucks on the J. J. Keller Driving Range, a one-mile, closed driving course. Over the years, the J. J. Keller Foundation has also supported truck driving scholarships, the FVTC Truck Driving Staff Professional Growth Fund, and curriculum adaptation for students for whom English is a second language. The organization also donated a truck-driving simulator to FVTC and routinely provides the college’s Transportation department with books, videotapes, and other training materials.
The partnership doesn’t stop there. The college has also received donations from the J. J. Keller Foundation for its Parent/Child Center at the Appleton campus, and Fire Training Center in Neenah. In addition, the J. J. Keller Foundation contributes to an annual scholarship for Culinary Arts students.
“We help FVTC and they help us,” Keller says. “The college helps us with associate training and trains people for employment, and we hire them and keep them in the Valley. We’re sort of like first cousins.”