Anne Marie Mersereau Kodama was a junior in 1990 when Mills students and alumnae organized a strike that resulted a reversal of the College’s decision to admit undergraduate men. She remembers, “Even though I lived off-campus, I made time to get to Mills to stand in front of the doors of the Cowell Building. The experience made me think about what I was getting out of women’s education at Mills and why it was worth fighting for—reasons that continue to inspire my giving to the College.”
Anne Marie took to heart an agreement Mills alumnae made at the end of the strike: to contribute more to the College’s endowment while boosting unrestricted gifts for current use. Anne Marie made her first gift to the College just four months after she graduated. She recalls, “I wanted to do what I could. In the beginning, it was only around $100 a year.” In 2004, she made a pledge to establish and endow the Kodama Family Undergraduate Scholarship.
Anne Marie had applied to Mills as a 24-year-old resumer and transfer student. She majored in English, minored in history, and particularly enjoyed her classes with Professors Ruth Saxton and Marianne Sheldon. After graduation, she taught English in Japan for a year. Her interest in Japan eventually led to a job with Stanford University’s Asia/Pacific Research Center. She is now a financial management analyst in the university’s Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Research.
Education has always been very important in Anne Marie’s family. She explains, "My grandparents made bequests to create four endowed scholarships at universities with family connections. This was always something that I wanted to do too. I knew it would be a bit of a stretch to endow a scholarship over five years, but I investigated the options and talked it over with my husband, and we decided it was worth the stretch to make a difference.” The Kodama Family Undergraduate Scholarship will be awarded to a student for the first time in the 2010–11 academic year.
The late Lydia Nelson McCollum ’43, and her husband, Bob, established a scholarship for Mills students shortly after their daughter, Mary Lou Steenrod ’70, graduated from the College. Lydia explained, “My husband became enamored with Mills, so we decided to create a scholarship in 1974.”
The Lydia Nelson McCollum Scholarship is awarded to Mills students from the Rocky Mountain region, as Lydia was a native of Denver. To ensure her scholarship would continue in future years, Lydia created a provision in her will that earmarked a percentage of her estate for the Lydia Nelson McCollum Scholarship.
Lydia explained, “I am a Mills graduate, my husband served as a trustee, and our daughter is an alumna as well. Our family’s connection with Mills runs deep, and we firmly believe women’s colleges are very necessary. My husband and I were happy to establish a scholarship, and I am glad to know that other young women will benefit from it for many years to come.”
“I received a full scholarship to attend Mills, so it was important to me to give back to the College as soon as I graduated, even though I wasn’t making lots of money. As I became more established in my career, my partner, David, and I were able to give more. We set up the scholarship as a way to focus our philanthropic efforts and extend the opportunity of a Mills education to current and future students. We also gave to honor the memory of Carol Lennox, Mills computer guru from 1971 to 2000, because she was a great influence on me, both as a mentor and a friend.”
“I think if I’d chosen a different college, I would have taken a more traditional path in life. Mills gave me the confidence to instead live independently and pursue my dreams. I have a career in information technology, so I’ve been using my degree in computer science, and I also got a lot out of the classes I took in European history and art history. I appreciate that the liberal arts curriculum at Mills allowed me to explore subjects outside my major."
“David and I will continue to contribute to the scholarship fund, even though it is now fully endowed. Giving back to repay what I received is very important to me.”