Staying Connected by Giving Back: Alumni Create Scholarship for Education Students

by Tom Hanlon  /   Jul 21, 2020

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John and Judy Hathaway find joy in providing scholarship funds to help College of Education students move toward their degrees, and in staying connected with the University of Illinois.

For John and Judy Hathaway, the decision to set up a scholarship through the College of Education was an easy one—although neither was an education major.

“We both feel strongly about education,” says John, a 1967 University of Illinois graduate in political science, with minors in education and history. “My mom got two degrees at the U of I, including an master's degree in education through the College of Education, and we set up the scholarship as a memorial to her.”

The Marian Van Gerpen Hathaway Scholarship goes to one Education student per academic year, as chosen by a scholarship committee within the College. The Hathaways have requested that the committee choose a student who has completed a year in the College and has demonstrated academic ability, a love for the university, and financial need.

Marian Van Gerpen Hathaway excelled in academics, but her education was interrupted by financial difficulties brought on by the Great Depression and then by World War II. “By the time she got back to it,” John says, “she graduated in her 30s and got her master’s in her 40s. So the scholarship is set up for students who are uncertain about continuing their education due to financial challenges. We want to help them move forward toward their degree and not be interrupted in their student life.”

John and Judy met as students at Illinois and married in 1968, while Judy still had one year to go to attain her BA in Spanish. For both, attending the U of I was clear-cut. “I was the oldest and first in my family to attend college,” Judy says. “I got a scholarship to Illinois. It was an easy decision.”

John spent many days in his elementary school years on campus, where his mom was finishing her BA in education. “I was familiar with the Quad, the stadium, pretty much all of campus,” he says. “And with the library, where I spent a lot of time being quiet and occupied while my mom studied. I didn’t have any other school in mind.”

The Hathaways appreciate how easy the University of Illinois Foundation made it for them in creating the scholarship, which is set up through a charitable remainder unit trust and supplemented by donations from family and friends. “They understood the legacy I wanted for my mom and guided me through the process,” John notes.

“Education remains a core ingredient for a more peaceful and equitable society, and for more meaningful and prosperous lives,” he adds. “I’m sure we were helped here and there by people as we went along, in the university and beyond, so if we can give back to other people, particularly with students at the University of Illinois, and help them continue toward their goals, that’s great.”

“It does continue our relationship with the university long past our student years, and that’s a good feeling,” Judy says.