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April 14, 2017

Belief in education fueled bequest for scholarships

Generations of FGCU students will receive scholarships because of a generous bequest by a Naples resident who believed in the life-changing power of education.

Kathryn Beeken was passionate about education — for herself, her children and ambitious strangers who aspired to more than they were able to 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 thanks to scholarships made possible by her six-figure bequest.

William and Kathryn Beeken

“She wanted to leave a legacy to change lives out of appreciation for all she and William had,” said daughter Jensy Richards, a retired teacher and student of philanthropic leadership who served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya and now lives in Sarasota.

“She possessed a high degree of curiosity about everything,” Richards said. “She was open to discussing things, challenging people in appropriate ways and making opportunities. They both wanted to make a difference.”

FGCU President Wilson G. Bradshaw said they have done 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 said. “We are grateful for their vision and generosity and their belief in the future of FGCU.”

Kathryn and William Beeken 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.

When they moved to Florida, “they were in their mid-50s, and they were just as happy as they could be,” said daughter Melinda Amphor, who lives in Ashburn, Va., and works in leadership development for the federal government. “They fell in love with the area. 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,” says Jensy Richards, “especially the conservation aspects.”

After Bill died in 1998, Kathryn moved to Bentley Village in Naples. In 1999, she established an endowed fund with the FGCU Foundation to provide scholarships for students with financial need. The other main requirements were that they take a business ethics course and demonstrate service to the community.

When she died in May 2015, at the age of 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 has 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.

One student who is a beneficiary of the William and Kathryn Beeken Scholarship is Andrew Martin, who graduated from his Tampa high school with honors and a 5.26 GPA and plans to earn a degree in business management. Ultimately, he aspires to lead his own company.

Having worked three jobs over the summer to help raise money for college, and with an older brother who also is in school, he said: “my appreciation for this scholarship is immense, and the help it is going to provide me is enormous.”

Stephanie Cifuentes (’12, Finance and Economics) was a Beeken scholarship recipient who was fortunate enough to meet her benefactor at the annual scholarship luncheon the University holds.

She had received a Bright Futures scholarship that paid for much of her tuition and was using her credit cards to cover the rest. The Beeken scholarship eased her financial situation immensely.

“Then I got to meet the person who sponsored me,” she said. “We send letters to the donors. Mrs. Beeken clearly read them because she’d ask me questions about them. She had three students at that time, and she knew about all of us. She really prepared. She was so caring. And she kept my scholarship going (multiple years), which meant even more to me. As a result, I came out of school with less debt.”

Cifuentes worked for BB&T for more than 4 years then started her own consulting business, helping start-ups and established businesses with their business plans. She’s also part-owner of a startup that she hopes will be able to set up a manufacturing operation locally, 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.