First-Generation Students Benefit

Carla Ashby Nichols Carla Ashby Nichols ’69 and Dean Nichols ’70 established a scholarship for first-generation students who might not otherwise be able to attend Whitman.

Theirs is a marriage made in the kitchen. Of Jewett Hall. Where Carla Ashby ’69, a sophomore cheerleader and “hasher” in the dining room, met Dean Nichols ’70, a first-year student, football player and part-time dishwasher “specializing in large pots.”

“Only girls were allowed to be hashers back in those days. The dinner meal was served family style, and it was my job to carry dishes out to each of the tables,” Carla said.

Thirty-eight years of marriage and three grown children later, Carla still enjoys telling that story.

Dean, a retired business and technology consultant, and Carla, mayor of Woodway, Wash., were the first in their families to attend college. They say their experiences at Whitman — from the classroom to the dining room — helped define their lives.

“It changed my perspectives, my view of the world and of people,” Carla explained. For Dean, “Whitman College is where I built the foundation of my education and the ability to continue learning and adapting.”

Both want to extend those opportunities to other young students.

When they began their estate planning, “we really both centered on the idea that when we’re gone, what do we want to leave?” Carla said. “Education is something that just keeps giving. It extends far past that first gift.” Education was so important to their individual development that they decided to make Whitman students the focus of their philanthropy by creating a charitable remainder unitrust to fund the Carla and Dean Nichols First Generation Scholarship. The scholarship will provide aid to students who demonstrate the need for significant financial assistance and who might not otherwise be able to attend Whitman.

“There are lots of kids with capability in this world who, given the opportunity, could launch into a wonderful career or life path.”
— Carla Ashby Nichols ’69

“In raising three kids (Jeff, Charlie and Mark ’07) and providing them with wonderful opportunities in terms of education, we also were exposed to other families who, for circumstantial reasons, were not able to guide their kids and provide them with the same type of opportunities that Dean and I have been able to,” Carla said. “There are lots of kids with capability in this world who, given the opportunity, could launch into a wonderful career or life path.”

First priority for the Nichols scholarship will go to students who are of the first generation in their families to go to college. “It’s a group that can easily fall through the cracks. They should be at the starting gate like kids who have the resources,” Dean said.

The scholarships Dean and Carla earned and campus jobs they held helped them get that successful start. Carla’s mother, Addie Ashby, worked in the college business office, and “there was never any discussion of going anyplace but Whitman.” But after two years on campus, “it felt too much like home,” Carla said. She transferred to the University of Oregon her junior year. She was disappointed academically and socially. “I didn’t meet one person on campus,” she said. “I realized I didn’t want to graduate from a school where no one knew me.”

She returned to Whitman her senior year as a psychology major with an appreciation for “all the things that initially I was chafing at — the smaller, more personable atmosphere, the challenges academically.”

After Whitman, Carla earned a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Fisk University and worked as a mental health professional for King County for 10 years before becoming a stay-at-home mom. In 2000, she was appointed mayor of Woodway, a residential community south of Edmonds, Wash., and since then has been elected twice.

boat The couple enjoys sailing in Dean’s “retirement project.”

Dean was an economics major at Whitman, which he describes as “the place that I built lifelong friendships that I cherish.” He went on to earn a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Pennsylvania and was a consultant for Accenture, a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, for 27 years.

Today the couple continues the learning journey they began at Whitman as they travel the world on Dean’s retirement project: a 50-foot sailboat.

“Basically it’s our floating cabin,” Carla said. “It’s the best way to slowly travel in-country, to see and experience the local tempo of the culture.”

— Lana Brown

What is a Charitable Remainder Unitrust?

A charitable remainder unitrust distributes payments to the donors during their lifetimes based on the investment performance of the trust. The donors are able to claim a charitable income tax deduction when the trust is established, and Whitman will receive all the assets in the trust after it terminates. For more information, contact Jamie Kennedy ’96, director of planned giving, at (509) 527-5989 or kennedjj@whitman.edu.