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March to a Million

In 2015 when an anonymous donor pledged up to $500,000 for scholarships to the SOU Endowment Fund of the Ashland branch of the American Association of University Women, it came with a catch: the bequest would match money raised by the branch up to that amount.

With an opportunity potentially to establish a $1 million fund that would provide SOU scholarships in perpetuity, Ashland AAUW launched March to a Million in 2017 to raise $500,000.

At the club’s monthly meeting Nov. 23, members learned that the goal had been reached. A recent bequest of more than $100,000 put them over the top.

“I had just come on as chair of the committee when we launched March to a Million,” said Endowment Committee Chair Jean Conger. “One of my main interests is the education of young women.”

AAUW promotes equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research into issues that affect opportunity and economic equity. She said the anonymous pledge and March to a Million was an opportunity to build on those efforts for the future.

A $5,000 bequest from the estate of Mary Myers in 1996 provided the seed money for the Ashland AAUW’s SOU Endowment Fund. Needing $10,000 to establish an endowment fund, the branch raised an additional $5,000 by 1998.

In 2001, the fund had grown to $30,000, and the branch began granting scholarships.

The way an endowment fund works, the principal remains untouched and scholarships are funded from its earnings. Ashland AAUW scholarships are now also awarded to Rogue Community College students.

Ashland AAUW accepts donations for four funds, two at each institution: the SOU Endowment Fund, SOU Annual Fund, RCC Endowment Fund and RCC Annual Fund. Annual fund gifts are distributed within a given year, and endowment gifts are added to the managed funds.

In May, scholarships totaling $24,288 were awarded to nine women, five at SOU and four at RCC, utilizing both cash donations and interest earned on the endowment funds.

Contributions from Ashland members and supporters during the March to a Million campaign ranged from $50 to $100,000.

“Those who donate $10,000 or more are recognized as members of our Platinum Society,” Conger said. “And a $50,000 gift entitles the donor to a named scholarship.”

At this year’s Celebration of Scholars in May, two named scholarships were awarded, one in the name of the Kate and Jim Wolf-Pizor family and another in the name of Judy Yin Shih.

SOU has noticed the impact.

“We have distributed $170,000 since 2002 in support of the AAUW scholarships,” said Janet Fratella, vice president of development and executive director of the SOU Foundation at Southern Oregon University.

Fratella was on hand Nov. 23 to announce the completion of the March to a Million campaign and presented a bouquet of flowers to Conger. Other members of the endowment committee are Ginny Dugan, Vicky Giffin, Sylvie Whitman and Kate Wolf-Pizor. The Ashland branch of AAUW is the largest in the state with 173 members.

“We’re so dynamic and forward thinking,” Conger said. “Actually, a lot of it has to do with word of mouth, and that we have a large population of retired and educated people,” she added, explaining that younger women still working often don’t have the time to devote to AAUW.

“Membership is open to women and men who have earned at least an associate’s degree or equivalent,” Conger said.

“On April 9, 2016, we celebrated 80 years,” she said of the chapter.

Conger has lived in Ashland for 21 years. She worked as a flight attendant, a substitute teacher and a financial planner. She says she was the first female financial planner in Marin County, California, and has three master’s degrees, including an MBA. She joined AAUW in Marin when she was 30.

For information about the Ashland branch, see ashland-or.aauw.net.

Jim Flint is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.

Celebrating completion of March to a Million, which raised funds to match an anonymous donation of $500,000, from left, are Janet Fratella, SOU Foundation Executive Director, endowment committee members Kate Wolf-Pizor, Jean Conger, Vicky Giffin, Silvie Whitman, Ginny Djugan, and Director of Development, SOU Foundation, Christina Sanz. Ellen Fowler photo.