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Skagit Valley College Foundation receives a $1.68 million bequest, its third – largest gift in its history

Feb 1, 2024

The Skagit Valley College Foundation received the third-largest gift in its history, a $1.68 million bequest from the estate of Stella Rolph.

The gift will be endowed and used to fund two scholarships. The donor, Stella Rolph of Burlington, passed away in December 2022.

The Stella Rolph Memorial Scholarships will be awarded to students in two categories: SVC students pursuing two-year degrees and students who have earned SVC degrees who plan to pursue a bachelor’s or four-year degree from SVC or a Washington state college or university.

Skagit Valley College Foundation receives a $1.68 million bequest

From left to right- Tanna Baker, Anne Clark, Kathleen Petrzelka, Susan Deschenes, SVC President Christopher Villa, Cheryll Peterson, Naomi Peterson, and Paula Peterson

The Foundation will invest the funds through its endowment with the aim of serving students for generations to come.

“Stella was funny, smart, curious, and humble,” said Cheryll Peterson, Rolph’s niece. “She lived a simple life and was very generous, she saw education as central to how she could help others.”

“So many people I meet here love the college and this generous gift is indicative of that,” said Dr. Christopher Villa, SVC president, who welcomed the donation. “We are honored by Ms. Rolph’s generosity.”

According to Susan Deschenes, SVC instructor of the fitness class since 1997, Rolph’s connection with the college developed as result of her participation for more than 20 years in an SVC Community Education fitness class.

Deschenes noted that Rolph’s involvement in the long-standing exercise group had developed many close friendships over the years. In addition to their regular exercise routines, participants took part in activities outside of class including community fundraisers.

“Stella attended my wedding and baby shower, to show how close we became over the years,” recalled Deschenes.

Rolph was raised in the Bayview area of Skagit County and graduated from Burlington-Edison High School in 1946. She and her husband, Lloyd, lived in Seattle most of their married lives and moved to Burlington upon her retirement from United Airlines.

SVC President, Christopher Villa (left) with Cheryll Peterson, Rolph’s niece

SVC President, Christopher Villa (left) with Cheryll Peterson, Rolph’s niece

Rolph celebrating her 93rd birthday

Rolph celebrating her 93rd birthday

“Our endowment continues to grow and provide significant funds for annual scholarship awards to students based on the criteria chosen by the donor, whether it is student need, their program of study, their achievements, or any number of other qualities,” said Kathleen Petrzelka, SVC Foundation executive director. “Stella will change many lives with this bequest.”

For more information about the SVC Foundation, visit skagitfoundation.org.

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