Palmer College in Davenport receives largest gift in school's history

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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - Palmer College in Davenport received a big gift Friday, the largest in the school's 122-year history.

Palmer College in Davenport received a big gift Friday, the largest in the school's 122-year history. (KWQC)

Bechtel Trust gave the school $5 million. The gift came with one stipulation from R. Richard Bittner, who committed the gift to Palmer before his death: to use the funds to support student learning.

Bittner was the administrator of Bechtel Trust.

Officials say Palmer's new $3.4 million student clinic, dedicated Friday in Davenport, honors the college's promise to Bittner. It is named in honor of Trevor V. Ireland, D.C., a Palmer graduate and Palmer's current board chairperson.

The opening of the student clinic and the announcement of the $5 million gift comes on the heels of the college's announcement last week that it will invest $20 million dollars in campus building improvements in the years ahead.

You can read the full announcement below:

While the differences—and distances—between Anchorage, Alaska, and the Quad Cities, couldn't be more vast, Trevor V. Ireland, D.C., and the late R. Richard Bittner developed a deep friendship over their love of Palmer College of Chiropractic and the Quad Cities.

"Through their actions, both men transformed the way we deliver chiropractic education at Palmer," said Dennis Marchiori, D.C., Ph.D., Chancellor and CEO of Palmer College. "And now through their legacies, they'll continue to transform the profession forever. I'm so pleased to be able to finally share—and celebrate—what they've made possible through their acts of generosity."

Before his death at the age of 90 earlier this year, Bittner, who served as the administrator of the Bechtel Trust, committed a $5 million gift from the Trust to Palmer College. The gift is the largest the 122-year-old institution has ever received. The gift, however, came with one stipulation. "You must use these funds to support student learning," he told Marchiori when making the gift.

The new $3.4 million student clinic at Palmer, dedicated Friday in Davenport, honors the college's promise to Bittner. It'll be named the Trevor V. Ireland Student Clinic in recognition of Dr. Ireland's support and service to the College. Furthermore, the Academic Health Center building that's home to the clinic as well as the campus Welcome Center and outpatient chiropractic clinic will be named the Harold and Marie Bechtel Center in honor of the couple whose philanthropy has transformed the region.

Ireland's journey to Palmer, and this moment in the college's history, spans continents. He grew up in South Africa and received chiropractic care for the first time following a serious car accident. The experience changed the trajectory of his life forever. Soon, he found himself halfway across the world—in Davenport—pursuing a chiropractic degree.

After graduation, Ireland traveled to Anchorage, Alaska, where he set-up a chiropractic practice that is now more than four decades in the making. More than 30 years ago, he decided to give back to his alma mater through leadership on Palmer's board of trustees. He's served as the board chairperson for the past 10 years.

"It was through joint service to Palmer that Trevor and Dick began working with one another," Marchiori noted. Bittner was Palmer's general counsel for five decades, quietly working alongside the college administrators and the board of trustees as they ushered in a clear and definitive vision for the future. "Trevor and Dick challenged each other, challenged our board, and challenged our college to think more globally about the impact chiropractic has on the health and wellness of people today. They urged investment in student learning, patient care and research. We're known as The Trusted Leader in Chiropractic Education because of these kinds of contributions and values."

"In many ways, the insight and guidance Dick gave to Palmer continues to live on through Trevor, our board and full campus community. It'll also live on in the students who benefit from the spaces that bear the Bechtel and Ireland names."

Directly across the street from the Academic Health Center and Student Clinic, the Athletic and Recreation Center that opened in 2017 was named after Bittner.

"It's a special kind of alignment that Dick's relationship with Palmer College mirrored that of Harold and Marie Bechtel's with the Quad Cities," said Marchiori. "Harold and Marie cared deeply about the well-being of Quad Citizens. Dick was their lawyer, and through his wise and expert guidance, they chose to leave their entire estate to the community. They held Dick in high regard and entrusted him with guiding the way the Bechtel Trust would grant funds to help the Quad Cities and all of us thrive.

"Certainly, they have allowed us to not only thrive—but to flourish."

The opening of the student clinic, and the announcement of the $5 million gift, comes on the heels of Palmer College's announcement last week that it will invest $20 million in campus building improvements in the years ahead thanks to the generosity of alumni and donors locally, and around the world.

"Palmer College has never seen anything like this before. The Bechtel Center and Trevor V. Ireland Student Clinic are the perfect examples of the mutual influence Palmer and the Quad Cities community have had on each other," said Barbara Melbourne, vice chancellor for advancement at Palmer. "For nearly 125 years, Palmer has led the way in innovation in chiropractic. Our new student clinic brings innovation, technology, hands-on patient care, and exceptional education under one roof, benefiting Palmer students and the entire community.

"A lot is happening at Palmer—here in the Quad Cities and at our two branch campuses in California and Florida," she added. "And, we're just getting started."

Palmer College of Chiropractic, the first and largest college in the chiropractic profession, has campuses in Davenport, Iowa; San Jose, Calif.; and Port Orange, Fla.