Access to Education

Anonymous Bequest Turns Force Multiplier

Written By Debbie Black, Sr. Writer University Advancement

Anonymous Bequest Turns Force Multiplier Feature Image

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 Seattle U’s College of Education in 2002 in pursuit of 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; 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 Seattle U,” 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 Seattle U. 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.

Seattle 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—a force multiplier!”

He decided to create the Growdon Family Endowed Scholarship in Secondary Education with a $67,000 gift. The 1:1 match brings the endowment’s value to $134,000.

Endowments are critical to Seattle U’s ability to provide access to education. They allow the university to provide annual scholarship support for deserving students in perpetuity. More than 57 percent of Seattle U 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 in perpetuity.

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) and established the Terrence C. Kabanuck Scholarship for International Study. The purpose of the endowed scholarship is to provide study abroad opportunities for students in the Albers School of Business and Economics and in the College of Nursing.

“Sharon’s husband, Terry, who passed away in 2018, was a double Albers alum,” explains Wendy Kelley, assistant director of development in the Albers School. “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 CON alumnae.

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 endowed 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 also 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.”

Seattle University is working to raise $75 million for scholarships through the Campaign for the Uncommon Good. To date, $74.8 million has been raised in support of deserving students whose dream it is to attend Seattle U.

To learn how you can support student scholarships, visit Seattle U’s Give page at If you would like to include Seattle U in your estate plans, visit the Office of Gift Planning page at or contact Sarah Finney,