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Alumna’s Estate Gift Will Help Catawba Pay It Forward

February 02, 2016

Category: Academics, Alumni, Gifts, Students


sallywhitney.jpgCatawba Alumna Sally Whitney ’77 of Mooresville says there were several reasons she decided to include a gift to her alma mater in her estate plans.

By making what Whitney calls an “everlasting gift,” she says she is both sending a message to other alumni and friends to give, and showing her pride in Catawba.

“It’s heartbreaking when long-standing institutions, such as Sweet Briar, have to close their doors [due to financial difficulties], so I want to send a message about the importance of providing opportunity for a quality education for future Catawba students,” she explains.

Whitney, a Lancaster, Pennsylvania native, says she originally sought a small school in the South because her mother was from the South.  The size, location and the persona of Catawba, convinced her it was the college for her.

While an undergraduate, she played basketball and volleyball, and found time to triple major in Business, Economics and Accounting. She became a certified public accountant in North Carolina, and earned her MBA from UNC Charlotte.  She also was certified as a project management professional from the Project Management Institute..

Her educational foundations served Whitney well and helped her enjoy a long and productive career at Duke Energy [formerly Duke Power].  She rose through the corporate ranks there, and held a variety of leadership positions in information technology and information management.

Early in her career, she saw several of her Duke coworkers giving to their alma maters and taking advantage of the Duke Energy match to their contributions.  She started doing the same, targeting her gifts and Duke’s match to Catawba.

“It became obvious that this was a good way to pay back for my Catawba experience,” she remembers. 

As years passed, Whitney enjoyed visits from different members of Catawba’s Development team, including now retired Senior Vice President Tom Childress ’64 and former Major Gifts Officer Tom Bonebrake ’75.  Those visits both “cultivated and reconnected” Whitney to her alma mater and encouraged her to step up her giving and involvement with the college.

In 2008, she established an Endowed Scholarship Fund in memory of her family.  She used the matching gift feature at Duke Energy to make creation of the Parham-Whitney Family Endowed Scholarship Fund at Catawba “more feasible.”  That fund provides scholarship assistance to deserving females majoring in business.

She served on Catawba’s Board of Visitors for a number of years, and was tapped to join the Board of Trustees in 2011.  She currently serves as that Board’s treasurer and is a member of the Board of Trustees’ Finance committee and its Institutional Operations committee.  Catawba recognized her with its Distinguished Alumnus(a) Award in 2008.

She retired in 2010 as the senior vice president for financial re-engineering and financial information technology for Duke Energy.  She works now as an independent consultant.

In her current role as a college trustee, Whitney still loves the campus and the size of Catawba.  But she also sees “a need to maintain our excellent history of quality education while devoting more attention to running the college like a business.”

She notes the need to encourage all graduates to be better long-term alumni supporters of Catawba and says this could be done incrementally – “starting with small steps and increasing as career and life allow.”  Legacy gifts, she believes, “give the college room to provide opportunity for future students, improve the sustainability of college, and preserve its campus.”

And the estate gift that Whitney has planned for her alma mater, she says, is “a great way to give back so others can have access to the same opportunities I had.”