Merrilee Stewart Howard ’70 Honors Her Mother’s College Journey With Gift to Scripps Scholarships

Mother and daughter duo Audrey Thalia Stewart and Merrilee Howard ’70 began college at the same time. Now, Howard is honoring her mom’s dedication with a gift to scholarships at Scripps.

By Emily Glory Peters

When Merrilee Stewart Howard ’70 reflects on her time at Scripps, she recognizes how much it took to get her here. Without financial support from her parents, scholarships, low-interest student loans, and work study, she says, attending Scripps would have been impossible—especially as another member of her household was embarking on a college journey at the same time.

“My mother [Audrey Thalia Stewart] started college when she was around 19—but her studies were cut short when I was born,” Howard explains.

Stewart, then a young wife and new mother, went on to raise a family of four. Undeterred, however, she resumed her studies 18 years later, just as her eldest daughter Howard began at Scripps. Stewart would not only complete her undergraduate degree, but also obtain a teaching credential and master’s degree, ultimately becoming an educator herself.

Howard never forgot her mother’s diligence through it all. So, when Stewart passed peacefully this last November at the age of 93, Howard knew just how she wanted to celebrate their shared love for learning.

“I put a large portion of my inheritance into a charitable gift annuity because it was a way of honoring my mother and celebrating my 50th Reunion year,” says Howard. “I’ve designated the funds to the Class of 1970 Endowed Scholarship in her memory.”

Charitable gift annuities at Scripps are ideal for those seeking reliable income during their retirement, but who still want to support Scripps students. After annuity funds are invested, Scripps pays the donor regular fixed amounts during their lifetime, affording them a variety of tax benefits. The balance is used to advance the College’s mission.

Scholarship donations like Howard’s bear tangible effects on students at Scripps, more than half of whom rely on some level of grant aid to pursue their studies. Plus, unlike one-time gifts, endowed scholarships provide stable financial aid funding in perpetuity. In honoring her mother, Howard looks forward to seeing her gift support an ever-widening array of students.

“There are so many qualified students who would benefit from a Scripps education—and the Scripps community would benefit from their presence, too,” she says. “If scholarships can help Scripps increase the diversity of its student body by supporting people in the Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and LGBTQ+ communities, for example, we’ll be helping fulfill the goals of the Scripps IDEA Initiative, which promotes inclusion, diversity, equity, and access.”

Howard notes that supporting a diverse student body in which every student is valued is key to positioning Scripps’ relevance in the twenty-first century—a concern she shared with her mother, and a cause that remains close to her heart.

“Women’s education continues to be of utmost importance in this world,” she says, “and Scripps has graduated leaders both past and present. By supporting the College as part of my personal philanthropy plan, I know that I’m helping provide access to an outstanding education for Scripps students in the future.”

Charitable gift annuities like Howard’s are just one way donations can help secure your future and advance Scripps’ work. Click here to learn more about how to incorporate Scripps into your own planned giving goals.