Rediscovering Richmond

February 19, 2021

A year after she graduated Westhampton College, Katherine, W'69, was asked by a friend to help chaperone a dance for two local correctional schools. She thought to herself, "I don't know about this," but the experience surprised her. "I didn't study to be a teacher at all," Katherine said, "...but I really liked it. I really liked interacting with the kids."

Katherine returned to Westhampton to get her teaching certification. That certification unfolded into a decades-long career of teaching French at St. Catherine's School, where she was actively involved in community service projects during her tenure. "Giving back... that's something I feel really strongly about," she said.

As she built her career as an educator, Katherine's connection with her alma mater became an element of her past —as it does for many. That is, until a curious new project inspired her to return to campus. Katherine takes regular walks around the Richmond area and, noticing the work underway in the Gambles Mill Eco-Corridor during a visit to Riverside Drive, she decided to stop by and explore.

After checking out the Eco-Corridor, she began to include the UR campus on her regular walks. "The more I walked there, the more I thought about Westhampton and how grateful I was that they had helped me along to become a teacher," she said. "I thought: this is just such a wonderful place. I really would like to help somebody who goes here, or wants to go here but maybe can't manage it financially." Reminded of her experience at Westhampton and the support the school had offered her during her time there, Katherine got in touch with a contact at the University and made a commitment to include Richmond in her estate plans, benefitting financial aid.

During the summer of 2020, Katherine told her mother Betty that she had decided to include her alma mater in her will. Betty was 100 years old at the time. "And she said, 'You know, I would really like to do something like that," Katherine reported. Unfortunately, Katherine and her mother didn't have the opportunity to have many more conversations before Betty became ill and passed away in August. Wanting to honor her mother's desire to give back, Katherine decided to establish the Jordan Timberlake Scholarship — which bears her and her mother's surnames.

Having already committed to including the University in her estate plans, she decided to begin funding the Jordan Timberlake Scholarship immediately. Katherine approaches the topic with refreshing levity; "I don't want to wait just until I'm dead," she said. "If I'm like my mother I could be 100 — who knows! I like to think that I'll have a nice long life. I wanted something more immediate... I want the scholarship to grow."

When it comes to Katherine's philanthropy at Richmond, her focus is unwavering: helping talented and bright students who might not otherwise have the chance to attend UR. "[Scholarship aid] changes the lives of people who are very capable and very talented but maybe don't have the means financially to figure out a way to do it. So if there's aid there, then they can take it and they can just blossom."

Katherine's story is a powerful reminder that the connection between Spiders and their alma mater is enduring, and that any time is a good one to invest in students and their futures. "It would be wonderful if more people in a position to do so could help out students who need a leg up," she said. "Richmond helped me a lot and I really would be happy to help somebody else out too, maybe more than one somebody." The scholarship that honors her mother and her connection to Richmond will support countless students over many generations and will be fully funded by 2024.

Gifts like Katherine's have an immeasurable impact on our Spider community, providing financial aid for students who need it in perpetuity. To learn more about making a gift to the University of Richmond please email donorrelations@richmond.edu, or for information about making a planned gift commitment, please contact Rhonda McIlwain at (336) 817-2718; rhonda.mcilwain@richmond.edu or Allison Vogler at (804) 287-6341; avogler@richmond.edu.