Jan Winkler and Hermine Drezner don’t really like to talk about their philanthropy. When they do, however, the joy that it brings them is evident.
“We don’t want it to be about us,” Winkler said. “Our only desire is to help others.”
This year, Winkler and Drezner gave to Palm Beach State College on a grand scale with a planned gift of $1 million for student scholarships. To honor their generosity, the College Foundation renamed its charitable annuities initiative to the Winkler/Drezner Charitable Gift Annuity Program.
At President Ava L. Parker’s investiture ceremony in March, the couple was presented to the crowd in a two-minute video before they, surprised and teary-eyed, were brought to the stage and presented with flowers.
“Most of the people who attend PBSC have already made the choice for higher education,” said Winkler. “We really appreciate those people and like to reward those who want to better themselves.”
The Palm Beach Gardens couple started supporting education in Palm Beach County more than 15 years ago.
In 2000, they began the Winner Scholarship Fund through the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County in which students in need are awarded $1,000 college scholarships.
“These scholarships give hope, belief in the possibilities, and are a road map for children to start the journey,” said Winkler, who has been in the real estate business for more than 40 years. “The scholarship alone won’t get them to college. Its primary purpose is to say, ‘We really believe in you.’”
To date, hundreds of children in the second to fifth grades at Jupiter, Egret Lake, Greenacres and South Grade elementary schools have been awarded the Winner Scholarship. Winkler and Drezner don’t just provide the funding, however, they give the kids a sneak peek at college life through visits to Palm Beach State.
“The trips are fun and educational,” said Winkler. “The kids not only get a tour and eat lunch on campus, they meet and talk with professors, which we hope will give them a great first impression of higher education.”
According to Winkler, some of the Winner Scholars have even gone on to attend Palm Beach State.
“We believe in PBSC,” Winkler said. “We think it’s a wonderful opportunity for young people who have little prospects to suddenly have great prospects. That’s why we’re involved, and that’s why we’ll continue to be involved.”
Palm Beach State has not only enriched these children, but also Winkler and Drezner. The couple, who have been married for 24 years, have attended hundreds of shows at the Duncan and Eissey Campus theatres.
“We really enjoy music and the arts and believe it inspires people,” said Drezner, who has a bachelor’s degree in dance from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in gerontology from the University of Bridgeport.
She and Winkler have been patrons and donors of the Duncan Theatre for the past 14 years and have sponsored its Classical Café music series for six years. They are also sponsors of the Palm Beach Opera and distribute tickets to elementary school children in the hopes that they, too, will become inspired. The children also tour the Duncan Theatre on their trips to the College.
“We are not wealthy people,” said Winkler. “We have more than we need to live off of and the excess we give. It’s that simple. We don’t care about stuff. We care about helping people.”
Winkler and Drezner want others to follow in their footsteps.
“We really hope people in our same situation explore ways to become involved with PBSC whether it’s financially or not,” said Winkler.
Watch a video about Jan Winkler and Hermine Drezner: