Art Symons met Glenna James at Whitworth in the late 1940s. After Art graduated in 1951, he and Glenna, ’53, married, and Art put his business management degree to work. His career progressed quickly: within five years he rose from working in quality control in California to being an assistant supervisor for Hershey Packing Company; eventually, he founded Symons Frozen Foods, Inc. He joined Whitworth’s board of trustees in 1968. In the decades since, Art and Glenna have given more than $4 million to Whitworth, and they entrusted their three daughters’ education to the college. In 2013, Art received the George F. Whitworth Medal – Whitworth’s highest honor – for his service and generosity to his alma mater.
Like Art, Dick Cole graduated in 1951 and married his college sweetheart. Elizabeth (Liz) Olds, ’53, became Dick’s wife after his graduation. He found a calling in stewardship and built his career raising millions as a development officer for The Whitworth Foundation and for the Presbyterian Foundation, as a representative of the Synod of the Pacific. He and Liz have also been deeply generous with their assets: In 1992, the year Dick joined the board of trustees, the Coles placed a 122-acre piece of land, which they had purchased in 1965, into a charitable remainder unitrust with The Whitworth Foundation; this gift is one of the largest ever received by the foundation.
One evening in 1992, the Symonses and the Coles were enjoying a casual conversation on a boat with their classmates during their 40th reunion, when their discussion turned to the question of what this group of alumni from 1950-54 could do to enhance Whitworth’s mission of providing a mind-and-heart education for today’s students. The alums formed the Early Fifties Fund Committee, comprising Cal Moxley, Virginia Ainley, Alice Scribner Power, Sue Holmes, Marie and Vernon Buckley, the Symonses and the Coles. The group established a pooled investment in which the principal remained intact and grew, and the yield of interest and dividends was distributed as scholarships to students with significant financial need.
“Our initial goal was to raise $200,000, but Paul Viren, ’78 (Whitworth’s then-director of alumni relations), challenged us to think bigger and to choose the goal of $1 million,” Dick said. The group accepted Viren’s challenge and sent an appeal to fellow graduates from 1950-54, who responded generously.
The Early Fifties Endowed Scholarship donors – 154 alums and their spouses – not only reached their ambitious goal, in December 2012; they exceeded it. The fund currently stands at more than $1 million. As of 2012, $368,509 in scholarships had been distributed to 90 deeply grateful students, many of whom could not meet tuition costs without the alums’ support.
Dick once said, “I believe deeply that when Christian people see, and gain satisfaction for, what their gifts are doing, they will become deeply generous.” These 1950s alums have proven that even a small group can work together and build momentum to benefit future generations.