Thanks to a generous gift of nearly $10 million from the Eva Gordon Estate, students at Renton Technical college and 16 other Washington colleges will have the opportunity to fulfill their dreams. The gift is one of the largest to community and technical colleges in Washington State, with each college foundation receiving approximately $550,000.
Eva Gordon was a hard-working woman who was ahead of her time. Having lived a long and happy life she had few regrets, save one: not having a formal education herself.
“If I had a scholarship when I got out of high school, I could have done so much more,” Gordon said in a 2013 profile by South Seattle College.
Gordon, who passed away in June 2018 at the age of 105, grew up on an orchard in Eugene, Oregon and graduated at the top of her high school class. Little by little she invested money from meager paychecks to build a fortune and give back to others. During this time, Gordon loved seeing college students work hard and improve their lives, wishing she could have been a student herself if money hadn’t been so tight in her younger years.
RTC President Kevin McCarthy expressed gratitude for the gift that reflects the college’s values and goals.
“Students succeed at Renton Technical College through their own determination and hard work. But many encounter obstacles, and sometimes a scholarship or emergency grant makes the difference that allows them to stay in school," said RTC President Kevin McCarthy. "This amazing gift will provide support to reduce barriers for more students so they can stay on their educational paths.”
The RTC Foundation Board established the Eva C. Gordon Endowment in her memory and to honor her transformational gift to RTC students. Student scholarships and grants will start in 2020 with a focus on underserved students and students with financial barriers. The Endowment will help students pay for tuition and education-related expenses, and grants for unexpected financial emergencies.
“At RTC many of our students are first-generation college, single parents, immigrants, or working in order to pay for school,” said Stan Kawamoto, RTC Foundation board president. “The true cost of college goes beyond paying for tuition, especially in King County where the cost of living is high. When you’re a working parent, or the first in your family to go to college and need transportation to get to school, your costs are much higher.”
After graduating from high school, Eva Gordon went to work as a legal secretary and later for a Seattle investment firm. She married her husband, Ed Gordon, in 1964 and together they shared a common dedication to higher education. Ed Gordon, who passed away in 2008, was able to go to college thanks to the encouragement and support of his aunt. After graduating from college, he became a Navy pilot and flew patrol bombers during World War II and the Korean War — an opportunity he credited to his college degree. After serving his country, Ed settled in Seattle where he met Eva. Ed worked as a stockbroker and together, they taught courses at the McNeil Corrections Center. Ed would deliver curriculum on business practices, while Eva led the group in warm-up exercises.
“A lot of people didn’t know the wealth she had. If there was a coupon for two-for-one at Applebee’s, she was all about that,” said John Jacobs, her godson and estate representative. “She liked seeing students working, earning and doing things. Her goal was to provide an opportunity for those folks who could ill-afford it, whether vocational training or an academic skill.”
Washington’s community and technical college students, many with jobs, family responsibilities and a median age of 26, are often one step away from having to quit college to pay the bills. Each college foundation will work with its board and school administrators to decide how funds are allocated to maximize opportunities for students.
“Eva had a tremendous heart and liked to throw a rope to help people climb,” remembers John Jacobs.
In addition to RTC, the following colleges have received funds from the estate:
- Bates Technical College
- Cascadia College
- Clover Park Technical College
- Edmonds Community College
- Everett Community College
- Grays Harbor College
- Green River Community College
- Highline Community College
- Lake Washington Institute of Technology
- North Seattle College
- Pierce College Foundation
- Renton Technical College
- Seattle Central College
- Shoreline Community College
- Skagit Valley College
- South Puget Sound Community College
- Tacoma Community College
Press contact: Katherine Hedland Hansen
Executive Director, College Relations and Marketing
Eva and Ed Gordon. Courtesy photo.