Provost gives $100,000 for scholarships

Gift endows emergency support fund at Cal Lutheran

Leanne and George Neilson made the donation to continue the spirit of giving established by Leanne's father, who was able to continue his education because of a donor's gift.

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. –April 4, 2019) California Lutheran University Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Leanne Neilson and her husband, George, have donated $100,000 to establish an Emergency Support Scholarship Endowment.

This scholarship will provide, in perpetuity, annual funding to students in any major or degree program at any Cal Lutheran campus location who need financial assistance to continue their education. The donation was made Wednesday during Cal Lutheran Giving Day, which raised about $670,000 for various programs.

“After 25 years working, learning and leading in this community, Cal Lutheran has a deeply meaningful place in my heart,” said Leanne Neilson of Simi Valley. “My husband, George, and I are grateful that our careers have allowed us both to see the difference that quality education makes in the lives of students. We want to make sure there are always funds available to students who just need a little extra help to finish their college degrees.”

George Neilson was a theatre professor for 40 years in Canada and the United States. Leanne Neilson began her Cal Lutheran journey as a faculty member in psychology in 1993 and has served as chief academic officer since 2008. She has never been shy when it comes to speaking up for students. Her commitment is clear — provide the best learning experiences possible for the university’s nearly 4,400 students whether their major is art, theatre, business, education, psychology, religion, exercise science or something else. 

When her father, Morris Womack, attended Freed-Hardeman College in the 1940s, he was planning to drop out of school after a successful freshman year because he couldn’t afford to pay off his student account. A donor named Harland Hooper provided funds to sponsor a student, and the college chose Womack as the recipient that year.  

“My father had a challenging pathway to complete his own degree,” Neilson said. “Someone was generous enough to make a donation that paid his tuition.”

That one gift kept Womack in college, and he continued his education through to the completion of a doctoral degree. He spent the rest of his life talking about the impact of that donation, which Neilson said made an impression on their entire family about the importance of supporting others. After her parents left an inheritance, she and her husband decided to pass on funds to continue the spirit of helping others.

“This legacy gift to support degree completion for students experiencing financial difficulty is particularly inspirational,” said Cal Lutheran President Chris Kimball. “Leanne and George have decided to invest in current and future students in a tremendous way, and I want to express my sincere appreciation to both of them.”

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