Kathryn Beeken was passionate about education – for herself, her children and ambitious strangers who aspired to more than they could afford on their own.
Because of her generosity and that of her husband, William, generations of students they will never know will fulfill their dreams through scholarships made possible by a six-figure bequest she gave Florida Gulf Coast University.
“She wanted to leave a legacy to change lives out of appreciation for all she and William had,” says daughter Jensy Richards, a retired teacher and student of philanthropic leadership who served in the Peace Corps in Kenya and lives in Sarasota. “She possessed a high degree of curiosity about everything. “They both wanted to make a difference.”
FGCU President Wilson G. Bradshaw says they did that and so much more.
“It is so gratifying to see how the Beekens have inspired students through their generosity and how that spirit will continue to assist deserving students to realize their dreams for generations to come,” he says. “We are grateful for their vision and generosity and their belief in the future of FGCU.”
The couple moved to Bonita Springs from Erie, Pa., in 1981. William was a stockbroker and small businessman. Kathryn earned a degree in commerce from the University of Iowa and worked in publishing for many years.
“They fell in love with the area,” says daughter Melinda Amphor, who lives in Ashburn, Va., and works in leadership development for the federal government. “While they had the opportunity to give back to the schools they attended, they already had huge endowments so they decided to do something for FGCU because it was local and just getting started.”
“Bill was proud to be part of it,” Richards says, “especially the conservation aspects.”
After he died in 1998, Kathryn moved to Bentley Village in Naples. In 1999, she established an endowed fund to provide scholarships for FGCU students with financial need. They also had to take a business ethics course and demonstrate service to the community. When she died in May 2015, at age 88, Kathy Beeken enhanced that fund with a bequest of $740,000.
Her son, Michael Patterson, who lives in Olympia, Wash, is a mechanical engineer who worked on submarines and supercomputers.
“I’ve achieved what I did because of my mother and her belief in the value of education. And so many others will do the same because of her,” he said.
Stephanie Cifuentes (’12, Finance and Economics) was a Beeken scholarship recipient. She had received a Bright Futures scholarship that paid for much of her tuition and was using credit cards to cover the rest. Her Beeken scholarship eased her financial situation immensely. She met her benefactor at the annual scholarship luncheon.
“I got to meet the person who sponsored me,” Cifuentes says. “We send letters to the donors. Mrs. Beeken clearly read them because she’d ask me questions about them. She was so caring. And she kept my scholarship going (multiple years), which meant even more to me.”
Cifuentes worked for BB&T for more than 4 years then started her own consulting business, helping start-ups and established companies with their business plans. She’s also part-owner of a startup she hopes will be able to set up a local manufacturing operation, which would mean providing jobs to local residents, her way of giving back and adding to the legacy Kathy Beeken made possible through her gift.
For information on planned giving and other ways to donate, contact the FGCU Foundation at (239) 590-1067.