Leaving a Legacy
Based on a True Story
All professors have them—gifted students who struggle to keep up in class because of work schedules; students who come to class hungry; students who can’t take courses because they can’t afford them—and those experiences stick with professors.
When contemplating her legacy upon her retirement at the end of the year, English Professor Brenda Miller thought about those deserving students. She noticed there was no scholarship for graduate students in creative nonfiction and very little support for undergraduates in writing. She decided to establish a planned gift to create two scholarships in the discipline she loves to support the students she inspires.
“I was really thinking about leaving a legacy for things dear to my heart, and I decided on scholarships for writing students,” said Miller, who has taught at Western for 25 years.
Ideally, she wants the recipients to show promise in creative nonfiction as well as financial need.
“I see students struggling to survive, and a lot of creative nonfiction students have been through a lot,” Miller said. “They are drawn to the genre because they’ve been through something difficult.”
And they have stories to tell. But support in creative writing is particularly important as many students feel they have to justify it as a major.
“The scholarships are also a validation for a student who might be doubting their ability,” Miller said, “a bit of encouragement.”
As for her own work, Miller is a prolific writer, particularly about the craft of writing. Her most recent essay collection is “A Braided Heart: Essays on Writing and Form,” and her collaborative collection with ’03 English alum Julie Marie Wade, “Telephone: Essays in Two Voices” received the Cleveland State University Press Nonfiction Book Award. Miller also won the Washington State Book Award for her memoir, “An Earlier Life.” She’s the winner of six Pushcart Prizes.
At the end of this year, Miller plans to retire to write, teach workshops, coach writers on shaping and completing their manuscripts, and collaborate with others in her writing projects.
English Professor Brenda Miller established a planned gift to create scholarships for writing students.
Learn about Planned Giving at Western
Contact Matt Hammatt, Senior Director of Planned Giving at 360-650-2443 or Matthew.Hammatt@wwu.edu
The Best Birthday Gift
Laurel Nesholm with husband John on a canal in Amsterdam.
The Laurel Nesholm Endowed Professorship in French
When John Nesholm and his children established the Laurel Nesholm Endowed Professorship in French, they surprised Laurel with it for her special birthday.
“I was flabbergasted,” said Laurel. “I get emotional just thinking about it.”
It was a gift that honors Laurel Nesholm’s lifetime passion for French language, culture, education and philanthropy. Her passion for French began at Western. Laurel, née Hoffman, ’64, majored in French and education at Western, attended graduate school at the University of Washington and then taught French at Seahurst Junior High School in the Highline School District from 1965 to 1971.
“Laurel is often mistaken for a native speaker in France,” said John, a founding partner of LMN Architects in Seattle. “That education started at Western.”
A 2012 Distinguished Alumna from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Laurel was at that time the executive director of the Nesholm Family Foundation, which funds health, human services, education and performing arts in Seattle. One success story is Kids in the Middle, a school improvement initiative helping middle school students succeed in three high-needs schools. Nesholm co-directed the project, and the strategies are being adopted in other Seattle public schools. A longtime volunteer and supporter of the Seattle Opera, Nesholm co-chaired its recent five-year fundraising campaign
Laurel Nesholm has been a lifetime learner, lover, and practitioner of the French language, as the host and leader of a study group that met every two weeks for more than a quarter century, as a member of three French groups and as a convener of French enthusiasts. Her continuing study of French has included many trips to France..
Laurel Nesholm has been a lifetime learner, lover, and practitioner of the French language, as the host and leader of a study group that met every two weeks for more than a quarter century, as a member of three French groups and as a convener of French enthusiasts. Her continuing study of French has included many trips to France.
The first Laurel Nesholm Endowed Professorship in French is held by Professor Cécile Hanania, who teaches French at all levels and is a specialist on the writings of Marguerite Duras and Roland Barthes. Hanania’s research is in contemporary French and Francophone cultures and literature.