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Midlands Gives Day is May 7, 2024.

Changing lives, one word at a time: a life of service

Al Montgomery’s early years were consumed by the struggle to form words, as it took him far longer than family and friends to speak without stuttering. As an adult, Al attended an eight-week summer stuttering program at Miami University in Ohio, which helped him improve his speech. After completing therapy, Al realized that his life’s purpose was to help others.

Marcia Mather grew up in Chicago and attended Northern Illinois University (NIU) as an English major. While attending NIU, her public speaking professor encouraged her to pursue a career in speech-language pathology. Marcia followed her professor’s advice and enrolled in summer classes to earn a speech pathology degree. During this time, she uncovered her passion—learning to speak to deaf and hard-of-hearing students through sign language.

Marcia and Al met while studying speech and audiology at Purdue University. Al was pursuing his doctorate and Marcia her master’s. After completing their programs, the couple married and moved to Melbourne, Australia, for a year to work at the Lincoln Institute, a speech therapist training center.

The Montgomerys moved to South Carolina in 1988 to teach at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health. At the time, the Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic (SLHC) was still in its infancy.

Despite numerous challenges related to funding and placement, the SLHC ultimately received funding from the Montgomerys for a permanent location on the university’s campus. As a result of the donor’s generosity, in 2019, the Clinic was dedicated to them and was named the Montgomery Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic.

The couple’s philanthropy extends beyond the SLHC; they established a donor advised fund at Central Carolina Community Foundation by donating inherited farmland in Beaufort, South Carolina.

“After renting out the lot for years, we gave it to the Community Foundation and established a conservation easement on it,” said Al. The proceeds went to their family fund to support local organizations and the SLHC.

Today, five unique retirement homes sit on 70 acres—residents have a view of more than a thousand trees planted by Al and his father and the Beaufort River.

The fundholders have worked diligently to be good financial stewards so they could give back generously. “We want to be able to spend all of our money somehow,” said Al. “With that being said, our primary interest is charity.”

Philanthropic areas that the Montgomerys are passionate about include local art museums, forestry conservation projects, and speech disorder research and treatment programs.

They prioritize charitable giving, which allows them to witness the impact of their donations, and they also plan to visit the organizations they support to see the effect of their contributions. “The fulfillment of seeing our donations at work makes our giving worth it. I also want to know that our money is being put into impactful initiatives and organizations,” said Al.

From speech disorder treatment to benevolent monetary donations, the Montgomerys’ lives are marked by a humble dedication to service.

“Our parents taught us the value of giving from their generosity and love,” said Al. “Throughout our lives, we have worked to give back to others through speech and hearing initiatives, but now we are continuing this through philanthropy.”