Estate gift honors Fern Bartling's dedication to education

Fern Bartling left the farm life she knew to seek a new future at Washburn.

Fern Bartling left the farm life she knew to seek a new future at Washburn.

Paul Bartling isn't sure how his mother, Fern Bartling, chose Washburn back in the 1930s while growing up on a farm near Garden City, Kansas. He's not even sure how she found the funds to travel across the state to attend.

He does know his mother was the only one of 13 siblings to graduate from college. She was determined to give herself the opportunities an education can provide, and that determination has always inspired Paul.

Fern passed away in 2005 but Paul and his wife, Melinda, have been honoring her with yearly monetary gifts to Washburn since the 1990s. They also have an estate gift in place that will fund the Fern Buchanan Bartling Endowed Scholarship and provide yearly financial support to students in the College of Arts and Sciences.

"Melinda and I want to give to people in need. Someone who will use the scholarship and benefit the same way my mother did," he said.

A world of opportunities

Fern was born in Ava, Missouri, in 1917. At one point, her family lost everything growing cotton in Texas. They later settled in Kansas.

"She appreciated the farming life but wanted to further her education and do something different," Paul said.

When she got to Washburn, she became president of Zeta Tau Alpha and earned a degree in political science in 1938. She worked all through college and then took a job with the Kansas Democratic Party after graduation.

She and her husband, Norman, married in 1941 and later moved to Casper, Wyoming, where Paul and his two sisters were born and raised. Fern was an active parent, spending many hours at school activities, sporting events and Scouts.

"She always emphasized her schooling and encouraged us to get an education," Paul said.

Paul graduated from the University of Wyoming, and his sisters also earned degrees that led to good careers. Paul met Melinda in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, where the two were working for ConocoPhillips. She worked in advertising, and he was manager of international lubricant sales.

Paul and Melinda now live in Oro Valley, Arizona, and are retired. Their estate gift will live on forever as a memorial to Fern's initiative and dedication.

"She set out by herself," Paul said. "Washburn had what she wanted, and it led her to a great life."

Make a lasting impact

To learn more about ways to make an impact at Washburn that fit your financial and charitable goals, we encourage you to visit our website and contact Jeannie Shy and 785.670.2734 or jshy@wualumni.org for more details.

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