by Grace Mullaney Humbles ’13
In summer 2015 Covenant College received a $5,000,000 gift to the College’s endowment from the estate of Scott Probasco—the largest planned gift ever given to Covenant College. This great act of generosity is a mere footnote in the extravagantly generous life of Scott Livingston Probasco Jr.
Chattanooga, Tennessee, owes a great debt to the work of Scott Probasco Jr., affectionately known to everyone in town as “Scotty.” Scotty’s influence in Chattanooga and its surrounding area was characterized by his enthusiastic philanthropy and deep care for the city and its people. In his support of Chattanooga’s non-profits and businesses, Scotty was known to offer the enthusiastic and heartfelt comment, “Great work!” That encouraging word was indicative of Scotty’s attitude toward every person he encountered.
“As soon as you walked into a room with Scotty and his wife, Betty, you felt like you were good friends,” says Troy Duble, who developed a relationship with Scotty while serving the College as vice president for advancement.
Scotty’s pastor, Rev. Tim Tinsley of First Presbyterian Church, points to a deep trust in God as the power behind Scotty’s encouraging spirit.
"Scotty's trust in God's sovereignty was so strong that he was able to live his life with a great confidence," says Rev. Tinsley. "I think his confidence in God's sovereignty also allowed him to be a very encouraging man. Scotty's heart was rooted in heaven all the time, so no matter what was going on he always had a positive, encouraging word. And his positivity wasn't just optimism--it was all rooted in his great faith and trust in God."
The Covenant community’s first encounter with Scotty Probasco came in 1964, when he officially welcomed the College to Lookout Mountain on behalf of the Chattanooga-local Benwood Foundation. But Covenant’s relationship with Scotty deepened in the 1980s, when former Covenant College president Frank Brock, a Lookout Mountain native himself, began to call on Scotty to tell him more about the work God was doing on Lookout Mountain.
Throughout the years, as Frank and Scotty’s relationship grew, Scotty became a strong supporter of Covenant.
“I remember Scotty telling me, ‘You know what I like about Covenant? I get two for the price of one: it’s all about education and it’s all about the big man up there,’” says Frank. “Scotty supported so many places, but Covenant was the only place that got at the two main things he really believed in: education and ‘the man up there.’”
In conversations with Troy Duble, Scotty called this two-for-one deal a “win-win.”
“In every meeting we had, Scotty would say, ‘Troy, this for me is a win-win,’” says Troy. “I pointed to the many stories of businesses in Chattanooga started by Covenant students and said that it’s a win-win-win: education, the big man upstairs, and the good of the city of Chattanooga.”
When Frank looks back on his relationship with Scotty, he’s reminded of what an encouragement Scotty was to him and many others like him.
“He was a generous person, business-savvy, and community-minded,” says Frank. “For him to say to me, ‘You have the two things I care most about,” was such an encouragement.”
Scotty truly believed in the importance of quality education, in the city of Chattanooga, and in the Lord Jesus.
“He loved education and he loved making sure people could have access to it,” says Troy. “He loved investing in the city and in her people.”
On April 18, 2015, Scotty Probasco passed away, leaving a great void in the city of Chattanooga. But Scotty’s generosity and philanthropic endeavors were far from over. Even in his death, Scotty ensured that he could still support the many places in the Chattanooga area that he cared for so passionately. Covenant College was one of those places, receiving a $5,000,000 gift from Scotty’s estate to the College’s endowment—a final way Scotty could give to support education and “the big man upstairs.”
Scotty’s gift to the endowment will help make a Covenant education affordable and accessible for students through scholarships. He was excited about the mechanics of his planned gift, which allowed him to give money that would have been spent in taxes to causes he cared deeply about. It was another one of his favorite “win-wins.”
“I believe that Scotty gave his gift in large part because of Frank Brock,” says Troy. “It was because of a love and care for Frank and the way he was investing in Covenant College and therefore in the Chattanooga community.”
It’s hard to walk around Chattanooga without encountering the great work of Scotty Probasco. From his love for local schools to the towering presence of SunTrust Bank, Scotty’s absence is felt across the city. The College and its students will benefit from Scotty’s generous gift for years to come, but Scotty’s presence, his advice, and his encouragement will be greatly missed.
“We’ll all miss him,” says Frank. “Chattanooga will miss him. He encouraged so many people and so many good works.”