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New gift augments scholarship for KU nontraditional students

September 28, 2009

Walking down the hill during a University of Kansas commencement ceremony is a thrill at any age. For Peedee Brown, it was one of most important events of her life.

“I was a non-traditional student, and I walked down the hill at age 48,” said Brown, who earned her bachelor’s degree in English in 1988. “My diploma from KU is, next to my family, my most treasured possession.”

She and her husband, Philip Brown, of Fairway, Kan., recently contributed $33,325 to the Peedee Brown Nontraditional Student Scholarship Fund for undergraduate English majors.

Peedee and Philip Brown

Since 2003, when the Browns established the fund, they have provided more than $93,000 to KU Endowment to augment the scholarship.

James Carothers, KU professor of English, taught several of Brown’s classes. “As a student, Peedee Brown was one of those pioneers who discovered the value and the joy of completing an undergraduate degree after a long interruption,” Carothers said. “And, philanthropically speaking, she and Philip were ahead of the wave in recognizing the need to make opportunities like that possible for other nontraditional students.”

Brown said she grew up in a family in which it was believed that “girls didn’t need an education.” Her parents agreed to send her to one year of college at the University of Wisconsin for one reason: “to find a husband.”

“I did find a good one,” Brown said. “We just celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. But after we raised our children, I still hadn’t fulfilled my dream of earning my college degree.”

She began in 1979 by enrolling in an English class taught by Carothers at what was then called KU’s Regents Center, in Johnson County. “On the very first day, he wrote ‘Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Faulkner’ on the blackboard and I knew then that I was home,” Brown said. She fulfilled some of her degree requirements at a community college and began commuting to KU’s Lawrence campus in 1985.
On May 15, 1988, she took that long-planned walk “down the hill.” Brown said KU basketball player Danny Manning walked just a few feet behind her in the procession, generating enthusiasm from onlookers. “I pretended that all the cheering was for me,” she said.

Brown recalled her determination to earn her degree. “I was a regular visitor at Strong Hall during my senior year just to make sure my name was on the graduation list,” Brown said. “After the graduation ceremony, I wouldn’t leave Lawrence until I had my diploma in hand. I cried with joy all the way home.”

Brown said she’s pleased that she and her husband have been able to create this scholarship for non-traditional students. “My hope is that the recipients will value their education as much as I value mine,” said Brown.

A non-traditional student is someone who falls into one or more of the following categories: commutes 10 or more miles to campus, is a parent of a dependent child, is married, is a veteran whose academic career was interrupted for at least six months by compulsory military service, or is three or more years older than their classmates.

The scholarship fund is managed by KU Endowment, the official fundraising and fund-management foundation for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment is the oldest foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.
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September 28, 2009
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