Besche Oil Makes First Lead Gift to CSM’s Campaign

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Besche Invests $100,000 toward Workforce Initiative for CSM Students

Mike Besche could be characterized as a hard-nosed, bottom-line type of guy who expects high performance and a strong commitment in all of his business transactions. As a Wharton School of Finance and Commerce graduate with a long, successful career as president of his family’s oil company and several board appointments to enterprising for-profit firms, he fully understands the investment and commitment it takes to be the best in class.

As Campaign Chair of the College of Southern Maryland’s $5-million campaign, Besche, who has been actively involved with the college for nearly half of its 50-year history, demonstrating his commitment to higher education and workforce training in Southern Maryland by making the first “lead” gift of $100,000 to the college’s “Campaign for the Next 50 Years.”

“I saw my investment in CSM as a way to jumpstart the campaign but more importantly to challenge the other foundation board members and trustees to make this happen. We have a $5-million goal and we are at 100 percent board participation, and if you add up the total board family giving, it’s more than $600,000. That speaks volumes about how people support and partner with this college,” he said.

Additionally, total giving by the college’s employees has surpassed previous years, with a total of more than $97,000 in donations and pledges. “All of this is a great start toward that $5-million goal,” remarked Besche, “but I now challenge the local businesses, alumni and community to help us reach and surpass that $5-million goal. We still have many businesses in Charles, Calvert and St. Mary’s counties that benefit from hiring CSM graduates that have not made the investment yet, and they need to be involved.” To date $3.6-million has been pledged and donated toward the campaign.

Besche moved to Charles County in 1956, before a community college existed within the region. As an 11-year-old he watched as NASA formed, microchips were invented and Charles County Junior College opened its doors. He saw first-hand how reality can grow from the dreams of visionaries, and later with this frame of reference the young business graduate plunged into the family business.

After graduating from Wharton School of Finance and Commerce in 1969, Besche followed in his father’s footsteps and took over the reins of the company in 1973. The company grew through the first of many troubled times for the oil industry, and is celebrating 60 years of personal and quality service in delivering heating oil to thousands of residential, commercial and retail customers in Southern Maryland as well as being a supplier of gasoline to 50 stations and stores in the state.

Bringing that same strong business sense to the college, Besche was appointed to the college’s Board of Trustees in 1985 at which time there were 4,462 students enrolled across three counties, with 2,460 from Charles, 1,410 from St. Mary’s and 513 from Calvert. “I became interested in all aspects of the college and making it grow. I was not only a business guy, I was a young business guy,” he recalled. At the onset of his involvement with the college fellow board members included Dr. Henry Burke, Wm. Daniel “Danny” Mayer, Veronica Coates, Maria Johnson, and the late John Thomas Parran Jr. and Louis P. Jenkins.

As a trustee in the 1980s, Besche recalls the strong business focus he had. “It was a different arena from what I was used to operating. I sat on the boards of 10 small companies in Washington, and I was used to corporate governance, but sitting on the college’s board of trustees was a totally different world. These companies were profit-driven, and education was not. The college is about educating students, but the more students you teach doesn’t mean more profit,” he said.

“The college was doing well. Growth was moderate and we had gotten through the recession, so the big issue of the early ‘90s then was automation when PCs were really coming in, and I envisioned a time when every faculty member would have their own computer.” His vision was met.

Today his vision is even more grand— $100-grand to be exact, and his desire is that others follow his lead. In making the first lead gift of $100,000 in support of the regional center for trades and technology, one of five initiatives of the college’s campaign, Besche said, “There was a healthy skepticism as we first considered this campaign as to whether this could happen. I decided that if I wanted this to happen, I needed to put my money where my mouth was, so I agreed to become the campaign’s chair and make the first lead gift of $100,000 towards it.”

“I see the results of what the College of Southern Maryland has to offer. I see it in my employees, in my neighbors, and in how the college impacts the entire community of Southern Maryland,” said Besche based on his longtime service and the impressive growth he’s observed.

Serving on the CSM Board of Trustees, formerly known as the Charles County Community College, until 2000 when the college became CSM, Besche was vice chair, 1993-94, and chair, 1994-96. He transitioned from his position on the governing board to the CSM Foundation, the fundraising arm of the college, in 1997 and is completing his 10-year service this July after serving as CSM Foundation Chair for the past two years.

As Besche continues his efforts with the college through the “Campaign for the Next 50 Years,” he views his gift for trades and technology as a way to support enterprising young students. “I see a facility that will do a lot for the trades, and not just truck driver training. I see it as a way to get young people fully involved and trained on a life travel of success.”

“The demands of our society require us all to be in a constant state of continuing education,” he said. “By developing partnerships and improving the quality of our workforce through education, we will be able to ensure the continued growth and prosperity of those living in the region.”

The CSM Foundation’s “Campaign for the Next 50 Years” has achieved more than 74 percent of its $5-million goal, with donations of more than $3.696 million. For information about the campaign, call 301-934-7649 or visit www.csmd.edu/foundation

As the College of Southern Maryland celebrates its 50th anniversary, the CSM Foundation marks a major milestone in the college’s history of the college with its “Campaign for the Next 50 Years.” The campaign is raising $5 million to fund an Institute for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (ISTEM), a Regional Center for Trades and Transportation Technologies; and initiatives to address local nursing and healthcare workforce shortages; focus on educational excellence, and endow a student scholarship fund for access and success. CSM, founded in 1958, is the fifth largest community college in Maryland and grown to be the centerpiece of Southern Maryland with campuses in Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties and more than 21,000 annual enrollments. For information about CSM, call 301-934-7765 or 301-870-2309, 240-725-5499 or 443-550-6199, Ext. 7765 or visit www.csmd.edu.

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