Anonymous Bequest Turns Force Multiplier

Stephen Growdon, ’03, wanted to give back to the Seattle University graduate program that spring-boarded him to a fulfilling second career.

A classroom of students sitting in desks and listening

When everyone has access, everyone can shape the future

Stephen Growdon, ’03, wanted to give back to the Seattle University graduate program that spring-boarded him to a fulfilling second career. A successful businessman with an MBA from Dartmouth, Growdon entered SU’s College of Education in 2002 in pursuit of a life change. He had worked for eight years as a financial analyst for Starbucks in the company’s early days and then took a yearlong sabbatical to assess his next career move. During that time, he volunteered as a reading tutor at a local middle school. This experience revealed teaching to be his calling—or maybe it was just in his genes as Growdon comes from a family of educators. 

In 2003, he graduated from the Master in Teaching (MIT) program with an endorsement in secondary education. Since then, Growdon has been teaching social studies at a Seattle-area high school and loving it!

“I enjoyed my time at SU,” he recalls, “but I also remember the student teaching experience as a financially difficult time for a lot of students and that motivated me to create a scholarship. Student teachers work hard in a local school for one quarter of the MIT program and are unpaid. At the same time, they are struggling to pay full tuition to SU. I want to help deserving, motivated future teachers.”

Growdon initially planned to fund a one-time scholarship gift with the potential for continued funding. Then College of Education Development Director Peggy Fine told him about an exciting new opportunity to match his scholarship donation dollar for dollar. 

University Advancement leveraged a $1 million anonymous bequest for the creation of endowed scholarships to inspire other donors. The Endowed Scholarship Challenge for the Uncommon Good offered a 1:1 match for new commitments to endowed scholarships of $50,000 or more. 

When Growdon heard about the challenge, he was blown away. “I thought, wow, what a phenomenal opportunity! That’s an immediate, day one,100 percent return on an investment in students.”

This inspired him to create the Growdon Family Endowed Scholarship in Secondary Education with a $67,000 gift, with the 1:1 matching doubling it. 

Endowments are critical to the university’s ability to provide access to education. They allow SU to provide annual scholarship support for deserving students in perpetuity. More than 57 percent of undergraduates and 47 percent of graduate students have documented financial need. Endowed scholarships are invested to grow over time. A percentage of the corpus is paid out each year in support of the stated endowment agreement. Any additional increase goes back into the endowed fund to promote optimal growth for greater access to education. 

Growdon wasn’t the only supporter moved to leverage this match. Sharon Brown-Kabanuck stepped-up to the challenge with a $50,000 gift, and committed to $25,000 more, for an endowment valued at $150,000 (including the $75,000 match) to establish the Terrence C. Kabanuck Scholarship for International Study. The purpose of the endowed scholarship is to provide education abroad opportunities for students in the Albers School of Business and Economics and the College of Nursing. 

“Sharon’s husband, Terry Kabanuck,’71,‘73, who passed away in 2018, was a double Albers alum,” explains Wendy Kelley, assistant director of development at Albers. “She created the endowment as Terry’s legacy in remembrance of their shared love of international travel. Students participating in any type of international experience will be eligible to receive the scholarship.”

Brown-Kabanuck decided to split the endowment with the College of Nursing because her two sisters and an aunt are nursing alumni.

In just three weeks, a total of nine donors including Growdon and Brown-Kabanuck met the Endowed Scholarship Challenge for the Uncommon Good with an additional 
$1 million for scholarships supporting the College of Education Master in Teaching (MIT) program, the Albers School of Business and Economics, the School of Law, a long-envisioned Global Engagement program in Ethiopia and to ensure a future spot for scholars from the Gashora Girls' School in Rwanda.     

“My father, who was the most generous person I’ve ever known, had a saying—'Never suppress a generous impulse’—and he lived it,” says Growdon. “I think when you have an opportunity to be generous, to share your blessings, you need to take advantage of it.” 

The first Growdon Family scholarships were awarded in the 2021-2022 academic year, coinciding with Growdon’s retirement from teaching in June 2022. Recipients of this scholarship include Wayne Carlson, ’22 MIT, and Derek McKenzie, ’22 MIT. ‘Growdon says he feels honored to have been able to help these students this past year and is excited to see what this year brings. 

The Growdon Scholarship was a huge help to my family and me. I so appreciated the support I received from Stephen Growdon. Knowing he saw something in me and wanted me to succeed made a massive difference in my confidence moving forward.  I am currently teaching 10th and 11th grade English at O’Dea High School and am really enjoying it so far. The boys are lovely young humans with so much character. I feel lucky to be their teacher. I am grateful for my education, which has allowed me to be a part of the O’Dea community.

Wayne Carlson, ’22, MIT


I’m hugely thankful for Stephen’s contributions to my education and experiences at Seattle U. My time at this school was marked by many successes: A great internship at Ballard High, a deep and meaningful knowledge of teaching pedagogy and a final capstone project that I’m super proud of. I now teach 10th grade Language Arts at Hazen High in the Renton School District. I was prepared and eager knowing how relevant and helpful the information I learned and practiced at Seattle U was.

Derek McKenzie, ’22, MIT