$4.3M surprise donation to UWSP will fund teacher scholarships and programming

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point says a surprise donation of $4.3 million will be used to address educational inequities in Wisconsin. The donation is from the estate of Dorothea Harju. Harju was an alumna. It’s the largest individual gift in its 125-year history.

The donation will create the Harju Center for Equity in Education at UW-Stevens Point. It will support rural education and prepare elementary education teachers. This includes 20 scholarships, which will first be available for students enrolling for fall 2020, and those at branch campuses in Wausau and Marshfield who major in elementary education at the main UW-Stevens Point campus.

It will also support diverse and first-generation elementary education teachers. A new release states it will help level the education playing field for Wisconsin children.

"This helps us focus the spotlight- as it should have always been, on our educational system and particularly on the teachers that deliver that education," said UW-Stevens Point Chancellor Bernie Patterson.

Dr. Lynda Fernholz is the associate dean of the School of Educaiton. She said the center will offer a wide-reaching support system.

"To support that hard-working teachers that are already out there, to support our rural communities, to engage communities, families and really promote literacy, education and equity for everyone," Dr. Fernholz said.

Dorothea Harju grew up in Redgranite and received her bachelor’s degree in education in 1943 and her master’s degree in 1966, both from UW-Stevens Point. She taught in various Wisconsin schools and served as a reading specialist in the Port Edwards School District for 25 years, retiring in 1977. Harju died in 2017 at age 98.