Supporter Stories

Ruth Bettandorff

"It is with great pride that my sisters and I, along with many of mother's friends, are able to dedicate a scholarship in her memory -- to help another woman get the education that will make a difference in her life, just as education made such a difference for us.”

Laura Bierema and Mark Ebell

Laura says that since the time she began with JRF, it has “stayed focused on its mission while increasing the amount of the scholarships, increasing the number of awards to sustainable numbers, and increasing its support of the scholars.”

Kate Blane

" I think it is very important for women to have a voice and bring different values to a world that is out of balance in so many ways. I want empowered lives for all women and education for women is the one thing that really brings this about."

Ruth Carpenter

“The extra confidence women receive as part of an award has given JRF a distinction. It’s not only financial help, but psychological support.”

Diana Cerwonka

“I was – and still am – awed by JRF’s commitment to women’s advancement, it continues to attract and retain dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers and supporters.”

Karen Hales

“Being a woman and having two daughters is a huge motivation in supporting other women as they strive for a better life for themselves and their families. Supporting education is a win/win for all in our society.”

Carol and Paul Kurtz

"Through the years of reading applications, I have always been amazed at the spark that scholarship applicants are able to muster to turn crippling events in their lives around and come to the realization that education can be the key to a new life for them and those in their family and community."

Michele Monteil

"The woman is predominant and I was aware from an early age that the success of the family is based upon the strength of a woman. I’ve always appreciated the role of the woman in bettering the family."

Jim and Dorothy Newland

 He and his wife Dorothy have seen JRF blossom into “a sophisticated organization with a broader knowledge base and growing participation.”

Sylvia Hillyard Pannell

"This fund honors the memory of my mother, Forest Stewart Hillyard (1907-1993). The work of JRF provides a means of continuing and supporting her beliefs and goals.”

The Forest Stewart Hillyard Scholarship is awarded each year as a tribute to a remarkable woman who spent her life and career helping other women achieve their dreams.

Rozy Park

" When it was hard and I wanted to stop and walk, I thought about Jeannette Rankin Scholars, and all the challenges they face in trying to complete their educations – family, work, and much more difficult emotional, psychological, physical, and time barriers they have to balance – and I said to myself, ‘Now that is a marathon!’ So, I was pleased to think it was partly for those brave women that I was running this race.”

Sue Plaskin

"My daughter has grown up with JRF, and I smile when Sue Lawrence says that Nina is JRF’s youngest volunteer. The words, "Jeannette Rankin Foundation" were some of her first vocabulary words. My time here has been some of the most rewarding work that I have done, because the mission of helping women succeed is close to my heart."

Michael Purser

"As it heads into its fourth decade, the Jeannette Rankin Foundation has helped hundreds of women with the same level of desire and determination displayed by Mom and Anne. No other organization speaks the language as clearly and eloquently for a group looking for assistance and affirmation."

Claire Swann

Claire has been supporting JRF for more than a decade, yet she says she hasn’t given nearly as much as she’s gotten from her experience. Her excitement for the program is contagious and her energy (not to mention a lot of coffee) was probably a necessity at the all-day screenings she remembers so vividly.

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Ruth Bettandorff - Donor/Volunteer/Board Member

Ruth Bettandorff,
Retired, Asst. Vice President Academic Affairs Emeritus, University of Georgia Gwinnett Campus

“I always knew that education was important to my parents -- neither of whom went beyond high school. They pushed and pulled my three sisters and me to do our best and be prepared for the college life they could never have. Then one day our lives drastically changed; my father died, leaving my mother with an 8 year old and two daughters in college (my oldest sister was married by this point). They didn't have any savings, but my father had been a soldier in World War II so we had VA benefits and, with part-time jobs, we could continue our schooling. And so could my mother!

After pushing and pulling and cajoling her, as she had so often done for us, she took the ACT, located her old high school transcripts, packed up our little sister and moved 150 miles to the nearest town with a community college. Now there were three undergrads in the family and mother was launched on her way to becoming an R.N. at 45 years of age!

She was a wonderful student -- soaking up everything she could get her hands on. You can't imagine how we all cheered and made wild noises the day she got her degree. As an R.N., she was better able to provide and could ensure that my younger sister also had the opportunity to go to college.

I began to study adult students and, after getting my Ph.D. in Higher Education with an emphasis in Adult Education, I have now worked with adult students, especially women, for over 25 years. If only, oh, if only, there had been a Jeannette Rankin Scholarship to help mother out! Thank goodness JRF is now there for other women who find themselves in her shoes. It is with great pride that my sisters and I, along with many of mother's friends, are able to dedicate a scholarship in her memory -- to help another woman get the education that will make a difference in her life, just as education made such a difference for us.”

 
 

Laura Bierema and Mark Ebell - Donor/Volunteer/Board Member

Laura and Mark have been involved with JRF since founder Margaret Holt introduced Laura to JRF in the early 1990s. After moving away for eight years, Laura returned to Athens with an eagerness to work with JRF. She joined the Board of Directors around 2001 and then moved on to serve as Vice-President and eventually President. Laura says that since the time she began with JRF, it has “stayed focused on its mission while increasing the amount of the scholarships, increasing the number of awards to sustainable numbers, and increasing its support of the scholars.” Of their favorite memories, meeting scholars is at the top. Though Laura is retired from the board of directors, the couple remains active in the organization - volunteering, advocating and donating.

Kate Blane - Volunteer

"I volunteer with JRF because I cherish my independence as a woman and education is the key to having choices in life as well as a meaningful career. I'm really thankful that I live in a time when women can have some real control over their own lives. I think it is very important for women to have a voice and bring different values to a world that is out of balance in so many ways. I want empowered lives for all women and education for women is the one thing that really brings this about."

Kate regularly volunteers in the office helping with mailings, application data, computer woes and so much more! She also volunteers each year during the application review process.

Ruth Carpenter - Volunteer

Ruth was a part of JRF “at the very beginning,” back when JRF “wasn’t an organization, it was just a good idea.” Ruth has seen the foundation grow from awarding one $500 scholarship, to selecting 85 women to receive $2,000 each. Some of Ruth’s favorite memories are the firsts of the organization – the first time a scholarship was awarded and the first time a scholar came to a JRF event to share her experiences.

Ruth’s involvement in JRF stems from her own accomplishment of graduating as an honor student when she was 57. Ruth is sure that an important part of the program is the personal connection JRF makes with its scholars. She says, “The extra confidence women receive as part of an award has given JRF a distinction. It’s not only financial help, but psychological support.”

Diana Cerwonka - Volunteer

Diana was introduced to JRF by Clairelis Baxter, who recruited her to read Level 1 scholarship applications. She has been involved with JRF for five or six years now and has seen the foundation grow in its number of yearly scholars. She has also witnessed JRF’s progression as it “streamlined the entire scholarship process.” When discussing her beginning at JRF, Cerwonka says, “I was – and still am – awed by JRF’s commitment to women’s advancement,” and mentions that she always enjoys the applicants’ joy and excitement when she calls to notify them of their award. She has many warm feelings about the foundation itself, and mentions that “it continues to attract and retain dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers and supporters.”

Karen Hales - Volunteer

Karen began reading JRF scholarship applications and volunteering monthly with JRF after coming to the Annual Dinner in 2011. Her husband Frank suggested that she might be interested in JRF after he learned about us through his company, Battelle, which donates grants for scholarships.

“Being a woman and having two daughters is a huge motivation in supporting other women as they strive for a better life for themselves and their families. Supporting education is a win/win for all in our society.”

Like many JRF scholars, Karen is a parent, and instilling the value of higher education in her children is important. She says, “In assisting other women in daring to dream, don’t we support our whole society at large?”

Karen feels strongly that women should pursue majors that offer “secure, high paying jobs” such as STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and math. The future is bright for STEM majors with steady growth projected.

Carol and Paul Kurtz - Donor

"Through the years of reading applications, I have always been amazed at the spark that scholarship applicants are able to muster to turn crippling events in their lives around and come to the realization that education can be the key to a new life for them and those in their family and community."

For her 60th birthday, Carol decided that she would celebrate by donating a scholarship to JRF. She asked friends and family to give gifts in her honor to the foundation. Carol and her husband Paul made up the difference, and her scholarship was awarded.

"I was so pleased, as a career educator, to be able to request that this birthday scholarship be awarded to someone studying to be an educator. The person chosen will be completing her studies in special education soon. When I read her personal statement about this choice, I was moved to tears, as that was part of my own undergraduate college double major. Then I knew for sure, this was a match made in heaven."

Carol and Paul continue to give a scholarship each year.

Michele Monteil - Donor/Volunteer

Dr. Michele Monteil is a professor of Immunology at the Georgia Health Sciences University/University of Georgia (UGA) Medical Partnership. She supports JRF with monthly contributions and was the MC at this year’s High Hat Party. Michele had a chat with volunteer Kate about her involvement.

Q: Share a bit about your background.

A: I was raised in the Caribbean which is a matriarchal society. The woman is predominant and I was aware from an early age that the success of the family is based upon the strength of a woman. I’ve always appreciated the role of the woman in bettering the family. Also, I love to read and came across micro financing and Muhammad Yunus. Reading his book established in my mind that if you give a little to a woman, the whole family improves. Jeannette Rankin is fascinating to me as well. She was strongly principled and stood up for what she believed.

Q: How did you learn about Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund (JRF) and how long have you been involved with the organization?

A: I am new to the Athens area and have been involved since April 2011. I was invited to an event by Leslie Lee, Vice President of JRF’s Board. Leslie holds a house party each year and invites women from UGA to find out about JRF and get involved.

Q: Why should others get involved with the organization?

A: Sisterhood and global sisterhood is an important reason. Women should be aware that their success has been helped along by other women. We should be aware of those who have less. Empower a woman to help herself and she helps her family.

Jim and Dorothy Newland - Donor

Jim and Dorothy have been JRF supporters for more than 20 years. Jim started out by reading scholarship applications, then moved on to join the Board of Directors as Treasurer, and eventually became the first male president of the board. He and his wife Dorothy have seen JRF blossom into “a sophisticated organization with a broader knowledge base and growing participation.” They fondly remember traveling to Sapelo Island, Georgia to review applications and enjoying an annual retreat with the rest of the Board Directors during their time of service to JRF. Jim rallies other JRF supporters with the encouraging words, “Keep on keepin’ on!”

Sylvia Hillyard Pannell - Donor

Sylvia describes her mother, Forest, as a “real flapper,” a self-determined woman who inspired her students to strive for independence, too. When Forest passed away in 1993, Sylvia asked friends, family and colleagues to give to JRF in her mother’s name. In 2012, Sylvia made a donation to make the Forest Stewart Hillyard Scholarship a permanent award to help low-income women across the country.

“This fund honors the memory of my mother, Forest Stewart Hillyard (1907-1993). A native of West Virginia she held the BS in Education in Home Economics from Marshall College (now Marshall University) in Huntington, WV, and an advanced degree in Vocational Home Economics from West Virginia University. Her career was as a high school Home Economics educator in both West Virginia and Florida. Upon retirement she taught through continuing education programs. She was a stalwart advocate of equality for women and a committed supporter of that cause. Throughout her life, both in and out of the classroom, she worked tirelessly toward the advancement of women through promoting the importance of education and actively counseling and encouraging women toward career goals. The work of JRF provides a means of continuing and supporting her beliefs and goals.”

The Forest Stewart Hillyard Scholarship is awarded each year as a tribute to a remarkable woman who spent her life and career helping other women achieve their dreams.

Rozy Park - Donor

Not only did Rozy decide to run The Flying Pig, her first half-marathon and a feat in itself, she also set a goal to raise money for JRF at the same time.

With support from friends and family from all over the country, she exceeded her target of $1,000 by more than $500! Even more exciting is that most of the gifts were matched, meaning an entire scholarship was raised.

Rozy said, “As I came down the hill, I had time to think. When it was hard and I wanted to stop and walk, I thought about Jeannette Rankin Scholars, and all the challenges they face in trying to complete their educations – family, work, and much more difficult emotional, psychological, physical, and time barriers they have to balance – and I said to myself, ‘Now that is a marathon!’ So, I was pleased to think it was partly for those brave women that I was running this race.”

Her first Flying Pig was in 2010, but Rozy has continued the tradition of running and getting friends and family to donate scholarships to JRF.

Sue Plaskin - Volunteer

"My mother began teaching my sisters and me to give back to the community in grade school. Sharing our time and talent was like going to work or school, it was part of our routine.

I was always excited to tell Mom what happened each day with the kids at camp or what craft I did with Mrs. Smith at the nursing home. I remember one time I came home from visiting residents in a nursing home, jumping out of my skin with excitement, to tell my mom that I had met Anastasia, the lost Princess of Russia! My mom just chuckled.

When my daughter Nina was born, I stopped full-time work to stay at home. It was wonderful, but I soon found that I missed my connection to others. A friend suggested volunteering at JRF and it was the perfect fit.

My daughter has grown up with JRF, and I smile when staff say that Nina is JRF’s youngest volunteer. My mother is involved, too. She creates and donates a hand-made quilt for JRF to raffle in support of its program. My daughter has grown up with JRF, and I smile when Sue Lawrence says that Nina is JRF’s youngest volunteer. The words, "Jeannette Rankin Foundation" were some of her first vocabulary words. My time here has been some of the most rewarding work that I have done, because the mission of helping women succeed is close to my heart."

Nina now has a younger sister, Frannie, who is learning all about JRF and helping others from this incredible family.

Michael Purser - Donor/Former Board Member

“On their way to visit an ailing relative, we lost my mother, Vera, and sister, Anne. A careless driver caused a senseless car accident, killing them both. Mom was 83. Anne was just 52.

Among our family and friends, the grief was profound, and the loss was too harsh to accept. Mom and Anne’s example of love gave us an option that provided solace amidst our grief. Their compassion and service to others was a legacy to preserve. We realized that education had been a silent partner in their lives. Mom used it to realize a childhood dream to become a nurse. Anne used it to reinvent herself as a teacher, and to reaffirm her dedication to her family and community. We decided to give that silent, empowering partner a voice, a presence and a mission.

As it heads into its fourth decade, the Jeannette Rankin Foundation has helped hundreds of women with the same level of desire and determination displayed by Mom and Anne. No other organization speaks the language as clearly and eloquently for a group looking for assistance and affirmation. This is why the Jeannette Rankin Foundation now has a scholarship named the Vera & Anne Purser Award. It is a scholarship that will be given every year in perpetuity. Anne’s son Caleb and I donated to the foundation so that other women who need financial assistance will be able to go to college. For generations to come, women in need will benefit from the generosity of the Jeannette Rankin Foundation while being inspired by the legacy of Mom and Anne. The gift education brings to these hard-working women will allow them to square their shoulders to each day, carry themselves with confidence and share their stories of success with others.”

Claire Swann - Volunteer

Claire has been supporting JRF for more than a decade, yet she says she hasn’t given nearly as much as she’s gotten from her experience. Her position as the Director of Admissions for two colleges led her to begin volunteering with JRF’s application committee; it was a natural tie-in for her.

Some of Claire’s fondest memories are of the early application screening process, when it was carried out at the Council on Aging. She recalls that the room was full of rows upon rows of tables, stacked with applications. She is quick to note that the system is much better now, in terms of efficiency. Her excitement for the program is contagious and her energy (not to mention a lot of coffee) was probably a necessity at the all-day screenings she remembers so vividly.