Ned and Yvonne Magee Blaine ‘55 Establish Endowed Merit Award

When Norfleet (Ned) and Yvonne Magee Blaine (’55) decided to make a sizable planned gift to Scripps College, their motivation came straight from the heart. “The fine people we’ve met at Scripps,” Yvonne Blaine explains, “and the friends we’ve made there have truly had a lifelong effect on us. Now I want some other young women to have that opportunity.”

Yvonne Blaine’s contact with Scripps began when she was a 16-year-old whose mother audited art classes at the College, and extended past her graduation when Molly Mason Jones convinced her to return to Claremont to work at the Mary B. Eyre Children’s School. After a couple of years at that “dear little place” and a year spent as faculty secretary in the Lang Art Gallery, Yvonne married Ned and moved away. Family, friends, and, of course, reunions ensured their regular visits to Claremont, and the decision to give back to Scripps began to evolve gradually as part of the Blaines’ plans for the future.

“When we reviewed how the new tax laws would affect us,” recounts Yvonne, “we realized we didn’t want half of what we’d leave to be whisked away in taxes and not have a say in it. That’s when we decided to give some away. My husband had some old securities that weren’t yielding any dividends, and we learned you could transfer these directly without going through a broker. We started talking with Allyson [Simpson, Scripps’ director of planned giving], and we decided to convert the securities and purchase an annuity with Scripps that would give us a cash flow.”

Beyond the financial gift to the College, the Blaines were eager to contribute something less tangible but even more meaningful to a place that had benefited them and several family members over the years. “When we sent our daughters to college,” Yvonne explains, “one was offered a merit award, and it was such a relief. It took some of the strain off. We wanted to return the favor, recognizing that colleges often lack financial backing to reward meritorious performances alone.”

Patricia Goldsmith, vice president and dean of admission and financial aid for the College, couldn’t agree more with the Blaines’ desire to create a lasting, valuable impact through their generous planned gift. “Basically, the judicious use of merit award aid here has changed the entire culture of the College,” Goldsmith declares. “As we’ve expanded merit aid from seven or eight Sames E. Scripps (JES) scholarships offered annually seven years ago, to this year, when we enrolled 43 James E. Scripps Scholars in the incoming class, the College landscape has truly changed. Our students are confident and demand high quality teaching, while the faculty find their classroom time more rewarding than ever. The best part, of course, is that excellence begets excellence. We now see groups of high powered high school students who are
anxious to follow in the footsteps of top students who graduated before them and chose Scripps.”

The numbers don’t lie. Average SAT scores have jumped about 100 points in the past five years, a “huge” leap according to Goldsmith, who directly attributes the rise to the expansion of merit award aid. “Also, we’ve gone from no National Merit Finalists to 20 in the same period,” Goldsmith concludes, a record number among women’s colleges this year.

Kathleen Wicker, professor of religion, can attest to the difference that top scholars can make in the classroom, as she reflects on her experience teaching Core I this year after a long hiatus. “I am truly impressed with the quality of the students in my Core section, including some JES Scholars,” Wicker notes. “The level at which they contribute to discussions has set the tone in the class the whole semester and reflects the high academic standards of a Scripps education.”

Young women today have more opportunities and choices than ever, but the decision to attend Scripps College has just been made a little easier for some fortunate and worthy individuals by the establishment and endowment of the Norfleet E. and Yvonne Magee Blaine Endowed Merit Award Fund.