SUNY Cortland Receives $1 Million Legacy - SUNY Cortland

SUNY Cortland Receives $1 Million Legacy

 SUNY Cortland Receives $1 Million Legacy

02/12/2014 

SUNY Cortland has received more than $1 million from the estate of a retired public school teacher to create a scholarship fund for ambitious students who might not otherwise be able to afford college.

The gift -- the largest realized bequest in College history and one of the most generous gifts ever received by SUNY Cortland -- was made by the late Esther Hawthorne, whose 37-year career influenced young lives from elementary to high school.

Hawthorne, who spent 25 years of her career teaching in the Syracuse City School District, passed away in May 2013 at the age of 95. 

“Education was first and foremost to Aunt Esther,” her niece, Inez Baker, said.  “As a teacher, she worked with children who she knew could be successful in college, but came from families who couldn’t afford to send them. She wanted to help make sure that students who are college material have the ability to get to go to college.”

Hawthorne’s bequest will be used to create the Esther K. Hawthorne Scholarship Fund to help SUNY Cortland students who demonstrate financial need.  She and her late husband, Leslie, who died in 1992, never had sons or daughters of their own. But Esther Hawthorne considered the generations of students in her classroom to be her children, Inez Baker said.

Having grown up on a farm north of Syracuse during the Great Depression, Hawthorne could relate to students whose families had trouble making ends meet. Her three sisters picked strawberries during the summers to raise money to send Hawthorne to Oswego State Teacher’s College (now SUNY Oswego), and Hawthorne did housework to pay for her room and board.  She eventually earned advanced degrees from Syracuse University.

“My aunt knew what it was like to scrimp and watch every penny,” Baker said of her aunt, whose husband had worked on the New York State Barge Canal.  “She lived very modestly in the house they bought in 1949, paid cash for anything she needed and paid attention to the interest on the money she saved.”

Hawthorne taught in public schools in Ithaca, Cooperstown, Lyons and North Syracuse before spending the bulk of her career in Syracuse. She taught elementary school, middle school and high school and served in positions ranging from classroom teacher to guidance counselor to building principal, Baker said.

During the 1980s, Hawthorne invested her money in certificates of deposit (CDs), which at the time often paid double-digit interest rates. She moved her money around frequently, shopping around for whatever banks offered the highest return. By the time of her death, those savings had risen to more than $1 million.

Hawthorne was proudly independent. She lived on her own and maintained a garden until months before her death, despite having suffered two broken hips. Her relatives can recall seeing her shoveling snow while using a walker.

Education and hard work are the keys to success, Hawthorne believed. As someone who avoided borrowing to the point where she and her husband purchased their vehicles with cash savings, it bothered her that so many deserving students are forced to take on huge debts to attend college.  Hawthorne decided to leave a legacy that would help those students pay for their education.

Many of her students in Syracuse wanted to follow in her footsteps to become teachers. Most of them went on to attend SUNY Cortland, which offers the largest accredited teacher education program in the Northeast and was within an hour’s drive of their homes, Baker said. Because of that, Hawthorne decided to focus her scholarship program in Cortland.

“The College is extremely grateful for this generous gift, and will make sure that Esther’s legacy continues the work she dedicated her life to,” said Kimberly Pietro, SUNY Cortland’s vice president for institutional advancement. “SUNY Cortland prides itself on being an institution of opportunity and access. Many of our students have real financial need and Esther’s generosity will allow them to get the education they deserve.”

Esther Hawthorne gift
Inez Baker, at left, the executor of Esther Hawthorne's estate, hands a $1 million check to Kimberly Pietro, SUNY Cortland's vice president for Institutional Advancement.

 


More News

Impressive Directors’ Cup Streak Continues for Athletics

Impressive Directors’ Cup Streak Continues for Athletics

SUNY Cortland is one of only five Division III schools nationwide to claim the honor.


Cortland Adapted PE Expert Presents at the United Nations

Cortland Adapted PE Expert Presents at the United Nations

Timothy Davis, an associate professor of physical education, spoke at a UN conference on sports and disabilities.


College Earns Major Grant to Promote Inclusive Play

College Earns Major Grant to Promote Inclusive Play

The Inclusive Recreation Resource Center will launch a two-year, two-part project.


Live In Cortland Puts Roof Over Homeownership

Live In Cortland Puts Roof Over Homeownership

A pilot program can help employees afford home ownership in Cortland.


Club Brings First Ever 3D Printer to SUNY Cortland

Club Brings First Ever 3D Printer to SUNY Cortland

A team of intrepid students created a "waving cat" as their first product.


Cortland Researchers Offer PE Teachers Help with Transgender Issues

Cortland Researchers Offer PE Teachers Help with Transgender Issues

The published article looks to improve the ways teachers work with students who identify as transgender.


Campus Water Tests Meet EPA Safety Standards for Lead

Campus Water Tests Meet EPA Safety Standards for Lead

Tests show SUNY Cortland's drinking water is below the EPA treshold for lead


High Jump National Title, Four Top-10 Finishes Cap Strong Spring

High Jump National Title, Four Top-10 Finishes Cap Strong Spring

Cortland junior Nick Vachon won the national title in the high jump at the NCAA Division III Men's Outdoor Track and Field Championships on May 27.


Orientation Programs Begin June 20

Orientation Programs Begin June 20

SUNY Cortland will welcome more than 1,800 new first-year and transfer students and their families to campus for Orientation this summer.


Staff Discounts Offered for SUNY Cortland Sports Camps

Staff Discounts Offered for SUNY Cortland Sports Camps

SUNY Cortland faculty and staff can get a $20 discount when they send a child to one of the College’s Summer Sports Camps.


Explore

Visit

Contact