Published: Fri May 5, 2006In celebration of her 90th birthday, family and friends of a 1938 alumna decided recently to honor her with a gift that keeps on giving — to Tennessee Tech University’s elementary education program.
The Esther Lee Welch Elementary Education Endowment has been created to honor long-time educator Esther Lee Welch, whose family and friends say she devoted her entire career to education in the Upper Cumberland region.
Welch’s daughter, Judith Barfield, and niece, Carolyn Livingston, contacted Randy Van Deven, senior development director at TTU, with the idea of establishing an annual scholarship to support elementary education students.
“We wanted to do something special for my mother in celebration of her milestone birthday, and a scholarship endowment in elementary education at TTU seemed a perfect fit,” said Barfield. “Family members and friends were eager to participate when I mentioned our surprise birthday gift.”
On April 15, more than 100 family members and friends attended her birthday celebration at the Leslie Town Centre in Cookeville and presented Welch with her special gift.
“I’m truly amazed that so much money was raised on my behalf and happy to know the money will be used for scholarships at TTU,” Welch said. “I want to thank everyone for being so kind and thoughtful.”
To date, TTU has received nearly $12,000 in support of the Welch endowment, and gifts continue to accumulate from as far away as Utah and Rhode Island. Beginning in 2008, the first scholarship will be awarded to a student from Tennessee who is planning to pursue a career in elementary education.
“Aunt Esther seemed touched by the outpouring of love and affection in establishing this scholarship in her honor and was pleased to know her name will be associated with helping a deserving TTU student attain a degree in elementary education,” Van Deven said.
Beth Mannle, assistant dean of education, spoke briefly at the birthday celebration, saying, “TTU is proud to be associated with the Welch family and would like to extend the college’s heartfelt thanks to all those who were kind enough to participate in establishing this wonderful tribute.”