Mary S. and William T. Southards Scholarship to benefit first-generation college students

Planned Gift to Benefit First-Generation Students

Paying it forward"It just seemed appropriate to set aside funds to support students who are the first in their families to go to college. It's a life-changing step."

Mary and Tom Southards grew up in different states, but shared similar goals. Both dreamed big in their small towns.

Accomplishing those dreams meant they’d be among the first in their families to go to college. For Mary, earning a college degree in the 1970s led to a career outside of the home; for Tom, it entailed a different kind of opportunity. While most people in his hometown went to work at the local textile mill, Tom’s plans exceeded those four walls.

“Even though our parents didn’t go to college, they valued education and saw education as a way to move up and enhance your quality of life,” said Mary Southards, assistant dean for enrollment management at Kent State University at Stark. “Having had the benefit of that, it seemed right.”

The Southards worked their way through college, completing both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. During her more than 35-year tenure at Kent State Stark, Mary has watched students work hard to pay tuition semester by semester as they study their way to graduation day.

As the Southards look forward to retirement, they’ve planned to give back to Kent State University through an estate gift.

The Mary S. and William T. Southards Scholarship will benefit first-generation college students and is made possible by the Southards naming the university as beneficiary of an existing life insurance policy. “This is something we felt we could, and should, do,” explained Mary. 

Karen Romas, Kent State Stark’s director of advancement, said gifting an existing life insurance policy is just one option available when planning an estate.

“Besides life insurance policies, donors can name Kent State as a beneficiary of their individual sheltered retirement accounts, bank accounts or brokerage accounts,” explained Romas. “These are some of the easiest and cost-free ways to help students if a gift at this time isn’t possible.”

Added Southards, “A college education truly changed my life, and my husband’s.” Her husband continues his work in the College of Aeronautics & Engineering at Kent State University. Tom sees the same work ethic in his students at the Kent Campus as Mary has witnessed at the Stark Campus.

“More than anything else, I think about how the campus changes people’s lives and their families,” Mary said. “And, quite often, the culture of the community.

“I can’t imagine spending my career anywhere else. When you believe in what you do, you have such an opportunity to make a positive, everlasting impact.”


Wish you could help Kent State University students achieve their dreams of a college education, but can’t give now? You can make a difference with a provision in your estate plan. 

Contact Karen Romas at 330-244-3225 or to learn how your deferred gift can help future students.

This article appeared in the Spring 2018 edition of Encompass Magazine.

POSTED: Wednesday, March 14, 2018 - 2:33pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, March 14, 2018 - 3:21pm
Melissa Griffy Seeton