UNK celebrates record $3.5 million gift for student scholarships

Glennis Nagel
Director, Media Communications, 308.865.8454

An alumna who enjoyed her experience at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and wanted to help other Nebraskans with their education has given the university its single largest private donation ever.

The $3.5 million gift from the estate of alumna Jean S. Rawson of California to the University of Nebraska Foundation bolsters UNK’s student scholarship offerings. The gift creates the Jean Sullivan Rawson and Richard Rawson Scholarship, a permanent endowment with the net income used for annual scholarships to graduates of Nebraska high schools who demonstrate financial need.

Chancellor Doug Kristensen said news of the gift was the best holiday gift UNK could wish for. “This is an extraordinarily generous gift – the largest the University of Nebraska at Kearney has ever received,” he said. “It will provide tremendous opportunities for students from across the state both now and for generations to come.  We are extremely grateful to the Rawson family.”

Jean Rawson graduated with a business education degree in 1940 from UNK, which was then the Nebraska State Teachers College.

Rawson gave an additional $3.5 million for an endowed student scholarship at the University of Nebraska Technical College of Agriculture in Curtis, the largest single private donation it has ever received. The college was formerly an agriculture high school from which Rawson graduated in 1936. Rawson’s total gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation is $7 million.

According to the NU Foundation, Rawson had many good memories of her days at UNK and took pleasure in knowing her estate would one day help many Nebraska students attend there throughout the years. She enjoyed a rich college experience by playing the oboe and English horn in student music groups, working in the cafeteria and serving as editor of the student newspaper.

Rawson also never forgot the kindness and support she received from the college’s president at the time, Herbert L. Cushing, and his wife, Annie. While working to put herself through school, she said Mr. Cushing often encouraged her to keep working toward her dream of graduating. Knowing the young Rawson had little money for clothes, Mrs. Cushing insisted Rawson borrow dresses for music performances and handed down clothes to her.

The youngest of three children born to farmers Jerry and Mary Gertrude Sullivan, Jean Sullivan was born on the Nebraska-Kansas border in Smith Center, Kan., and grew up in Maywood, Neb. After graduating from UNK, she taught at the Nebraska Union High School before moving to California where she worked for the Spreckel Sugar Company as an actuary.

Richard R. Rawson, a native of Sterling, Colo., was in the U.S. Army during World War II when he met Jean Sullivan in San Francisco. The couple married and lived in Daly City, Calif.  After the war, Richard Rawson enjoyed a career as an engineer for Westinghouse. Jean Rawson died on Feb. 12, 2003, and her husband preceded her in death on Dec. 11, 1998. The couple, who did not have children, enjoyed being near family who also lived on the West Coast.

The University of Nebraska Foundation is a nonprofit corporation supplementing support for students, faculty, facilities and programs at the University of Nebraska’s four campuses through gifts from alumni, friends, corporations and other foundations since 1936. Its Web site is located atwww.nufoundation.org.