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September 29, 2005

Giving back: Evening Degree Program alums help those who follow

Robert Straub took eight years to get his bachelor’s degree from the UW in 1965. He began his academic sojourn in “evening school,” long before it became the Evening Degree Program. He needed to raise his grades to qualify for the daytime program.

After Straub received his degree in political science, he paused for a few years, then returned to pursue a master’s degree in business, government and society, graduating in 1974. He has had a career that included positions at Boeing, at the UW in Payables and Accounting Operations, and most recently as a part-time school bus driver. He retired in 1999.

His brother Rodney, also a UW alum, died after a long illness in 2004. “He loved everything about the UW,” Straub said.

So, in his brother’s honor, Straub decided to make a lasting gift to a program he thought his brother would like to see maintained.

The Rodney Straub Endowed Scholarship is intended for undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need “as well as the motivation and tenacity to complete his/her undergraduate education including students in the Evening Degree Program.”

The Straub endowment is one of the new gifts received as part of the Faculty-Staff-Retiree “Campaign for Students.” Such gifts are eligible for matching funds up to $10,000.

“Back when I was in school,” Straub said, “students with no money were pretty much on their own. Now as the value of grants declines, we’re moving again in a direction were people of need are valued less. My belief has always been that if you have a little more, you find ways to share that with others. So the endowment works in a small way to encourage students to stick with it, despite obstacles, especially those average students who have to struggle to achieve a degree.”

Another person who has seen those obstacles firsthand is Nicole Dettmar, who works at the UW as a payroll/human resources coordinator in Patient Financial Services and just graduated with a BA in communication and social sciences through the Evening Degree Program. “I was supposed to graduate from college in California back in 1996 but never finished several incomplete/dropped classes and had always been embarrassed about not finishing my degree,” she said. “Then my son was born in 2002 and I realized I didn’t want my past to serve as a role model for his future education.”

She found the Evening Degree Program advisers helpful and supportive. She graduated with a 3.98 grade point average and is considering graduate school. Then she and her husband decided to give back by creating the Nicole Snyder Dettmar Endowed Scholarship for needy part-time undergraduates in the Evening Degree Program, the first endowment exclusively for evening students.

“Increasing tuition costs are a concern for all students but especially those in EDP,” she said, “who usually have additional challenges of existing mortgages, families to care for and other expenses while working full time. Full-time enrollment is often a requirement for many grants and scholarships, but that’s next to impossible to do while in EDP.

“I wanted to give back the opportunity to help other students’ educational goals become a reality. The timing of the staff campaign for matching donations the same year I graduated was the perfect way to do so.”

“The Evening Degree Program serves non-traditional students, people who may have jobs and families,” said David Hodge, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “They typically have huge financial need, so a scholarship makes an enormous difference. It also says to students that someone cares, and wants them to succeed.”

Since its launch in May, the Faculty-Staff Retiree Campaign has raised over $1 million in gifts, pledges and matching funds. The minimum gift for an endowment is $5,000, which must be paid over no more than five years.

To learn more, contact Laurie Houck, executive director of campaign operations, 206-616-6914, laurieh@u.washington.edu.