Westfield State University has announced a significant enhancement to student scholarships due to a planned gift with an estimated value of over $3.5 million from the estate of Paul W. Dower—the largest private donation in the University’s 181-year history.
The gift will support two restricted funds: $1 million to endow the Last Mile Fund and $1 million to establish the Paul W. Dower Live Strong Scholarship Fund. The Last Mile Fund was established in 2018 to help students in need who are at that critical “last mile” on their path to graduation. The Paul W. Dower Live Strong Scholarship Fund will reward high-achieving Westfield State students with an annual $10,000 scholarship for four years—a first for the University. The remaining money will be allocated through a trust over a five-year period to support the aforementioned funds equally.
“Westfield State University thanks the late Mr. Dower for this monumental gift aimed toward student success,” said Roy H. Saigo, Ph.D., interim president of Westfield State. “His long-standing relationship with Westfield State led him to appreciate the value and impact his generosity had on students in need. Mr. Dower’s transformational gift will help aspiring scholars for generations to come.”
“The significance of this historic gift and commitment from Mr. Dower cannot be overstated,” said Daniel Forster, Westfield State’s vice president for enrollment management. “Westfield State is already a tremendous value, but there are those families who still have need. This transformational scholarship will be a lasting tribute to the power of giving. It is an exciting time to be an Owl.”
Maria Perez ’18, a Holyoke Public Schools teacher, benefitted from the Last Mile Fund as a Westfield State student.
“As a first-generation student, receiving this financial support was critical to finishing my degree,” she said. “My Westfield State education helped me to land a position in a dual-language program in the same school system I attended, where I help underprivileged families and give back to my community.”
Dower, who studied at Westfield State, was a World War II veteran and worked in the printing, engraving, and graphic design industry. A South Hadley native, he lived in Holyoke for many years, and developed and introduced others to his myriad outdoor interests, including hiking, mountain climbing, cycling, spelunking, trailblazing, gardening, and skiing—and, especially, Mount Tom. An avid skier until his late 80s, Dower was one of few individuals granted a “lifetime membership” to Vermont’s Killington Ski Resort. Nine days before his passing in June 2020, Paul achieved a personal goal by celebrating his 100th birthday.
The brother of the late Catherine A. Dower, a Westfield State music professor who died in 2017, Paul Dower was a long-time supporter of the University and was inspired to give back to the Last Mile Fund after learning about its target audience. Known for his passion for helping others, he sought to assist students from financially challenged backgrounds to pursue their college degree with meaningful scholarship support.
The first Paul W. Dower Live Strong Scholarships will be awarded to students starting their Westfield State University education next fall.