Eastern Oregon University > Mountaineer Magazine > Alumni Stories > A legacy of care

A legacy of care

Caring professors and coaches made a lasting impact on Wilda Stratton, ’72, and now she’s determined to pay it forward. 

Stratton and her husband Marcus Watt have set up a $2 million estate gift to the EOU Foundation that will benefit women in STEM fields and student-athletes. Adding this legacy to their will ensures a legacy of education and opportunity for rural students.

As a biology student and multi-sport athlete at EOU, Stratton built connections with peers and mentors across campus. These relationships kept her on track during a difficult time in her young adulthood

“I was very adrift because both my parents had passed away and I had to leave our home, but I kept coming back to EOU because I knew the professors,” Stratton said. 

State scholarships and a consistent flow of weekend and evening jobs allowed Stratton to stay in school and enter the medical field. She built a career overseeing blood banks and transfusion services for major hospitals. Traveling to inspect facilities, Stratton used her experience at EOU to make friends everywhere. 

“The big thing that stuck with me was the ability to get along with all kinds of people and appreciate their strengths,” she said. “In a team sport each person brings something different and you have to respect each other.”

Stratton and Watt are both volleyball players, and 15% of their gift will benefit EOU’s women’s volleyball team. The other 85% will provide scholarships for women in science, technology, engineering and math, fields like Stratton’s that have historically been dominated by men. 

The process of establishing an endowed estate gift was new to Watt and Stratton, and they found expert help in EOU Foundation staff.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect, but a couple of phone calls really solidified those particular desires I had in mind,” Stratton said. “Once we started the process, you could focus on it and keep making progress to get it right.” 

“If people are unsure, they should really just call and ask!,” Watt said. “Staff do this every day, and so often people don’t realize those resources are there. It can be intimidating to know who to call, but once you start there are resources to guide you. Hesitancy shouldn’t be a barrier.”