TACOMA – The Neukom Family Foundation has made a $500,000 gift to its existing endowed student scholarship fund that is helping talented students from groups underrepresented in higher education to attain a college degree at University of Puget Sound.
The Neukom Family Endowed Scholarship, first awarded in 2001, provides financial assistance to underrepresented students in Pierce County who demonstrate academic excellence and financial need. The continuing support of the foundation, through several gifts in recent years, has produced 13 Neukom Scholars to date. This new gift moves the fund to a level that ultimately will support full-tuition awards for future recipients.
The foundation’s gifts to the scholarship fund also have played a significant role in helping Puget Sound raise $44 million for student financial aid through the One [of a Kind] The Campaign for the University of Puget Sound—a $125 million comprehensive fundraising effort to support students, faculty, and academic and residential life programs.
“The clear vision of the Neukom family to provide the substantial benefits of a Puget Sound education to students who might not otherwise have the means to attend has been inspirational,” said Puget Sound President Ronald R. Thomas. “The family’s commitment to equal opportunity and their generosity to ensure it have changed the lives of students who are now pursuing a great education and meaningful careers. The Neukoms’ support has brought to Puget Sound outstanding students from our community and strengthened our commitment to be a welcoming and diverse community. We are deeply grateful for their ongoing support.”
The family has a long history with Puget Sound and the local community. Foundation director Gillian Neukom Toledo graduated from Puget Sound in 1994 and later earned a master’s degree in elementary education at Teachers College, Columbia University. She has held several teaching positions in Seattle independent schools and has served as a member of the Puget Sound Board of Trustees since 2006. Her father, William H. Neukom, served on the Puget Sound board from 1995 to 2006 and continues as an emeritus trustee. A past president of the American Bar Association and founder of The World Justice Project, William Neukom was recognized by Puget Sound with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 2006.
“When we started this scholarship, it was our hope that we could bring the benefit of a high-quality college education to young people for whom it may have been out of reach,” Toledo said. “Seeing the scholars who have vigorously embraced this opportunity and the graduates who have moved into careers in law, local government, education, public health, entrepreneurship, and industry, we are deeply moved by what a young mind and spirit can accomplish, given the chance. It is our pleasure to be able to take the scholarship to another level, and to help our community fully benefit from the potential of its bright young citizens.”
Pierce County high school students who are alumni of the university’s Access Programs or Summer Academic Challenge receive special consideration in the awarding of the scholarships. The Access Programs, conducted in partnership with Tacoma Public Schools, promote academic excellence for middle and high school students from groups underrepresented in higher education.
Jamilia Sherls ’05, a Tacoma resident who attended Woodrow Wilson High School and who graduated from Puget Sound with a bachelor’s degree in biology, was the first Neukom Scholar. A wind ensemble clarinet player, she earned a master’s degree in public health at Drexel University and graduated from the Thomas Jefferson University School of Nursing. She is currently community outreach liaison at MultiCare Health System. Sherls says the Neukom Scholarship allowed her to attend her first-choice college.
“Puget Sound provided me with opportunities to learn how to think and write critically and become a stronger leader,” she said. “These skills have helped me excel in graduate school, nursing school, past job positions in public health and pediatric nursing, and in my current job position.”
Bailey Edwards ’17 is the university’s most recent Neukom Scholar. A graduate of Stadium High School in Tacoma, she plans to major in exercise science and is a member of the Logger soccer team. Edwards says she fell in love with the Puget Sound campus while enrolled in Summer Academic Challenge in seventh and eighth grade.
“Now that I am on campus, one of the things I really do enjoy is being on the women’s soccer team,” Edwards said. “The girls on the team are all amazing people and have set goals for themselves for the future. I have also recently joined the Pi Beta Phi sorority. This has allowed me to meet so many new people, and it gives me a chance to give back to my community with a great group of girls. The Neukom Scholarship was such a blessing.”