The Privats’ commitment to access and Whitman’s spirit of service

Service benefits community members and helps students learn civic responsibiity

The Center for Community Service coordinates numerous service events throughout the year, as well as seven major ongoing programs: Adopt-A-Grandparent, The Buddy Program, Service Trips, America Reads/America Counts, College Coaches, The Story Time Project and the Whitman Mentor Program.

These programs have a profound effect on the people they help in the community and on those who serve. Last spring, Kenna Little ’13 reflected on her experience as a service trip leader and volunteer in her blog:

“Through Whitman’s service trips I have gained best friends, hilarious memories, new skills and a deeper awareness of my role as a global citizen. It has helped me realize that service can, and should, continue to be a passion of mine and an ideal for how I want to live. I stepped onto Whitman’s campus 1,352 days ago, ready to serve for a week. In 18 days, I will leave Whitman ready to serve for a lifetime.”

John and Priscilla Privat’s legacy gifts to Whitman – and recently to the Now is the Time Campaign – continue to benefit not only those who have been changed through service at Whitman, but those in the communities where our graduates live.

John and Priscilla PrivatFor today’s generation of students, community service has always been a part of the Whitman experience. Throughout each school year, Whitties eagerly sign up to participate in community- and school-based volunteer projects, ranging from food drives and service days to longer-term outreach that partners students with individuals in the Walla Walla community. Since the creation of the Center for Community Service in the 1994-95 school year, the number of volunteer opportunities for students and their rate of participation has steadily increased. The sense of civic responsibility that continues to grow among Whitman students is a direct result of generous contributions from longtime donors John and Priscilla Privat.

John Privat, a dedicated non-alumni volunteer and financial advisor to Whitman College since 1981, first became interested in community service following his experience with a Habitat for Humanity week in Kentucky. He was further inspired by reading about students from Cumberland College in Kentucky creating a service organization to help impoverished families in nearby Appalachian communities. Student volunteers repaired roofs, built wheelchair ramps, installed insulation and eventually built more than 140 houses. It was such a “win-win” effort for both community and students that the Privats wanted to challenge Whitman to craft a similar program of service to others.

In 1997, at the conclusion of his service as chair and member of Whitman’s Finance and Investment Committees, John and Priscilla decided to provide seed money for a Center for Community Service Endowment to support and encourage the spirit of helping others among Whitman students.

Coincidentally, at the time the Privats were planning their gift, the Whitman College Board of Trustees was set to announce the establishment of the John P. Privat Scholarship Endowment in honor of John’s many years of valuable counsel to the college. The scholarship endowment provides support to Whitman students with financial need and students of merit.

The Privats have continued to provide support for these two endowments over the past 15 years, boosting the scholarship funds and increasing the outreach opportunities available for Whitman’s civic-minded students. In 2012, the Privats made a significant commitment in honor of the Now Is the Time Campaign that will bolster access and affordability for deserving students and build on the tradition of community engagement and collaboration that is widely becoming a fundamental part of a liberal arts education.