$2.5 million gifted to WSU

A gift from the estate of a Cougar alumna will support 25 new scholarships annually.

A gift of more than $2.5 million from the estate of the late Barbara G. Bethards, a Cougar alumna, will support the premiere academic scholarship program at WSU. Bethards, who passed away July 21 at age 58, left the bulk of her estate to WSU with the stipulation that the money go toward scholarships for students pursuing a bachelor of science.

The stipulation came directly from wording in her father’s will, said Risë McGill, director of development for the WSU Foundation. Bethards was the only child of two WSU alumni, and she graduated from WSU as an economics major in 1974.

The funds from the Bethards Scholarship will go into the Regents Scholars Program at WSU. The Regents program is the top academic scholarship program at the university, Vice President of Enrollment Management John Fraire said. The scholarship money is renewable for four years and will go toward continuing students, he said. About 25 scholarships will be supported annually by the Bethards Scholarship. “I think it’s a validation of who we are as an academic institution and the type of support we receive,” he said.

Large donations usually go to things like building and research, Fraire said. In almost 35 years of working in higher education, he said he has never seen such a large donation go to scholarships.

“Alumni donors like to give to scholarships,” he said. “What’s uncommon is to see such a large amount go to scholarships.” Because of the timing of the donation, the $2.5 million is also part of the “Campaign for Washington State University: Because the World Needs Big Ideas,” McGill said. She said one major goal of the campaign is to raise $200 million specifically for student scholarships.

The stipulation that the scholarship funds go toward students pursuing a bachelor of science is not limiting, she said. Numerous majors fall under that umbrella, including math and engineering. “It’s just really broad,” she said. “And that’s wonderful for us.” She said the scholarships can go to students who really need them because of the broad focus.

Regents scholarships are often made possible through tuition waivers, McGill said. This means there is not always real dollars funding the scholarships. The Bethards Scholarship will put money behind the program.

“I think a premiere scholarship should be funded by real money and not tuition waivers,” Fraire said. “That was the original plan for the Regents scholarships.” Of the $2.5 million total, $2 million will be endowed, which means the Bethards Scholarship will be a legacy that returns annually and exists permanently at the university, McGill said. About $500 thousand will go directly toward scholarships in the coming academic year.

“The Regents Program helps us recruit the brightest high school students in the state,” McGill said. “This gift, the Bethards Scholarship, will last forever.”

The endowment also allows the funds a chance to grow. Depending on the market, the amount of the endowment can increase through the years.

Bethards was a long-time resident of Spokane and worked as a transcriptionist at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center for 30 years, according to the Spokesman-Review. Along with WSU, she graduated from Gonzaga Law School. According to the Seattle Times, friends say Bethards dedicated herself to family, animals, travel and crafts such as quilting and scrapbooking. “I never met (Bethards),” Fraire said. “But I really appreciate what she did for Washington State University.”

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