Alumna leaves major gift for scholarships

The late Lucille Gilstrap West, who earned a Master of Arts degree from Stetson University in 1959, was a calculus teacher with a formula for life that called for careful planning, frugal spending and saving for the people, values and institutions important to her.

“She had a vision. She wanted to use her money to reflect her values and to help instill those values in others and, primarily, it was through education,” said Shane Lovingood, her longtime attorney, professional adviser and friend.

Mrs. West, who passed away in October 2010 at age 82, has left much of her estate to Stetson and to her undergraduate alma mater, Berry College of Rome, Ga.

Recently, Stetson received $140,000 which established the permanent Lucille Gilstrap West Scholarship Fund which will benefit students for many generations to come. Another $125,000 to $150,000 for scholarships will be provided in the future through a trust that Mrs. West created for her brother, Charles Gilstrap, said Lovingood.

The scholarships will be awarded beginning in the fall 2012 semester, said Kate Pearce, director of Annual Giving and Gift Planning at Stetson. The gift itself will be part of Stetson’s permanent endowment, and scholarships will be awarded from the earnings on the fund.

A video about the gift can be viewed at:

Mrs. West had attended graduate school in Teacher Education at Stetson in the 1950s. She was a mathematics teacher at Mainland High School in Daytona Beach, and also taught in theDalton (Ga.) school system – earning many awards including Teacher of the Year for her innovative methods of teaching calculus.

Building upon that success in the classroom, along with an inheritance from her parents and careful planning, Mrs. West and her husband were able to build their wealth. After her husband, Jessie West, died about 20 years ago, Mrs. West established a trust so that she and her family and assets would be protected if she ever became ill. By then she was retired in her home state of Georgia.

She notified her two alma maters –Berry College and Stetson – that they would share much of her estate after her death. By including Stetson in her estate plan, Mrs. West became a member of the prestigious Stetson Society.

“She grew to love this school (while attending Stetson) and knew what the value of an education is,” Lovingood said. “She wanted to make sure the students here were helped.”

“Mrs. West’s gift will enable students to attend Stetson who might not otherwise be able to afford a private, high-quality education,” Pearce said. “Through her generosity, future students will be able to make a difference in their communities and the world, just as Mrs. West did for the students in her math classes.”