The Jack Coleman Pitts and Dorothy De Simone Pitts Endowment
Jack Coleman and Dorothy De Simone Pitts
The joy of humor, the importance of planning, the worth of education, the wonder of adventure, the magic of philanthropy, the importance of reading, the rewards of hard work, and the delight of the humanities…
These are the virtues that Janet Pitts Beckmann’s parents instilled in her and are those that she hopes to inspire in current and future Whitman students through her gifts to establish the Jack Coleman Pitts and Dorothy De Simone Pitts Endowment. The endowment, named in honor of Beckmann’s parents, provides scholarship aid for students studying abroad and additions to Penrose Library.
Beckmann’s connection to Whitman College developed in an unusual way. She and her late husband, George M. Beckmann, had always believed in the value of a liberal arts education. Both had a background in education – he as a longtime professor of Asian studies and dean and later provost at the University of Washington, and she as associate dean at the University of Miami School of Nursing and dean of the school of nursing at University of Alabama, Huntsville. Both also authored scholarly and professional books. When they started thinking about how they might make a difference with charitable support, they researched small liberal arts colleges and thought about how they could supplement the transformative learning experiences that take place in such a setting. Whitman was fortunate to be among the colleges they looked at carefully. After George’s death in 1998, Janet set out to make their hopes a reality. She contacted Whitman and set up the plan for the George M. and Janet Pitts Beckmann Endowment to support library acquisitions and study abroad experiences that give students the opportunity to explore linguistics and the humanities around the world. Excitement about the Now Is the Time Campaign has prompted Janet to provide funding that will launch the Beckmann Endowment now, prior to the generous planned gift from her estate.
Janet Beckmann’s connection to Whitman deepened over the years – she and her mother became familiar with Whitman’s programs and people, and Janet attended a Summer College session. When Dorothy De Simone Pitts died in 2007, Janet wanted to do something for Whitman in memory of her mother and her father that would have an impact on the College as part of the campaign. In 2008, she created the Jack Coleman Pitts and Dorothy De Simone Pitts Endowment in memory of her devoted and loving parents, who instilled in her a respect for education and knowledge. The endowment is already providing considerable yearly support for its two purposes: study abroad and library acquisitions.
Hannah Siano ’13 was a fitting recipient of the Pitts Study Abroad Scholarship for 2011-12. A senior politics/environmental studies major from Everson, Washington, Hannah is a first generation student also inspired by her parents: “Neither of my parents attended college, but they are educated about and respectful of the natural world and our humble place in it,” Hannah wrote. The Pitts Scholarship supported Hannah’s study abroad in Ecuador this spring, where she studied Spanish at the School for International Training’s Comparative Ecology and Conservation Program. On campus, she is heavily involved in conservation and sustainability projects. Her efforts on campus and her experience in Ecuador helped lead to a prestigious honor for Hannah this fall when she was named a winner of the Udall Scholarship, which supports students dedicated to pursuing careers related to the environment. In the future, Hannah hopes to bring environmental education to K-12 classrooms.
The second purpose of the Pitts Endowment is to support the library’s purchase of material in Asian studies, religion, and classical Greek and Roman studies. “The library is the heart of the college, and libraries often are forgotten when big gifts are made to colleges,” says Janet.
Her gift is improving library offerings in a significant way. Last year, more than 115 books and other materials were added to the collection with proceeds from the endowment, including titles such as “A Companion to Greek Mythology,” edited by Ken Dowden and Niall Livingstone; “Mount Fuji: Icon of Japan,” by H. Byron Earhart; and “Civilizing Habits: Women Missionaries and the Revival of French Empire,” by Sarah A. Curtis.
Janet Pitts Beckmann was elected to the Board of Overseers in 2010. She hopes that excellence at Whitman will be furthered through her gifts and her leadership. The impact of the Pitts Endowment can already be seen today in the library and the opportunities for study abroad students. And her estate gift, when received, will add significantly to the Beckmann and Pitts family legacies at Whitman. Those exploring the world, whether through reading and research or through hands-on learning around the globe, will be inspired for years to come thanks to Beckmann’s thoughtful philanthropy.