What should you wish for while blowing out the candles on your 90th birthday cake? Barbara Goyne had to make that decision at her birthday dinner surrounded by her family this summer. As soon as the candles went out, she got a surprise!

The backstory

Barbara’s four adult children know her well. She has been a dedicated teacher all her life, including 12 years as assistant professor of biology at Union College (1976-1988). But even outside the classroom she was always helping people learn.

The seed for this epic birthday gift started decades ago when one of Barbara’s children experienced trouble learning in school. Her son couldn’t pick up on reading like his siblings, or the other children in his class. Finally, he was tested and the family learned he had dyslexia.

Barbara dove into research and started helping him find ways to learn and succeed despite the diagnosis. She hired experts, tutors and physicians to discover the best way to help her boy.

In her own classroom, Barbara also noticed signs of learning disabilities with some of her students. One by one, she referred them to the Teaching Learning Center on Union’s campus. Barbara had a passion for helping students succeed. She partnered with the TLC to do supplemental instruction for anatomy and physiology classes and found other ways to assist students who struggled.

A gift that never stops giving

Sitting around the birthday cake, the siblings announced their gift: The Barbara Goyne Tribute Fund for Student Success, an endowment fund at Union College.

“As soon as we told her, she immediately connected it back to working with my brother and the TLC. She was really pleased,” says Thomas Goyne, Barbara’s son.

Endowment funds are the quintessential gift that keeps on giving—forever! The gifts contributed by each donor are held securely, while a portion of the interest earned each year will be available for the TLC to use.

Thomas is a professor at Valparaiso University and has witnessed students slip through the cracks without getting the help they need.

“Just from my own experience teaching chemistry, supporting students with disabilities and special needs is one of my passions,” he says. “I’m really excited about this wonderful opportunity. Union means a lot to me.”

Thomas continues, “The hope is that it will really make a difference for individual students who for whatever reason need a little extra help, whether it be a learning disability or a mental health issue.” Thomas believes it will give them the boost they need to stay in college and be successful.

How endowment funds help students

Union had an active program helping students succeed long before it was common on school campuses. Throughout the ‘80s and early ‘90s, other schools were touring Union’s TLC to see how they could implement programs of their own.

Today the mission of the TLC has expanded to help any student looking for help—not only those with disabilities. They run several different programs to help incoming students adjust and succeed in college. Counselors assist students with time management, study skills, identifying their learning style, discussing mental health and much more.

One challenge faced by TLC professionals comes into play when they believe a student could benefit from testing for a learning disability. Testing is administered by physicians, and sometimes the cost can be prohibitive.

Debbie Forshee-Sweeney, director of the TLC, has a close-up view of students dealing with learning disabilities and how it affects them. “Nothing is more frustrating than to sit across the table from a student who desperately needs something. I’m not talking about new shoes. I’m talking about a roadblock—that if it was solved it would make a complete difference in their lives,” she explains. “This endowment is addressing one part of that, which is huge.”

The Goyne family structured this endowment fund to have flexibility to meet the needs of TLC students, even when that means off-campus support services.

Forshee-Sweeney is already seeing the positive effects of their gift. “I am very grateful that when a student comes in and needs services, we now have a financial means to help them do that—which ultimately means they can get the help they need.”

Leaving a legacy

LuAnn Davis, Union College vice president for Advancement, was a student at Union when Barbara was a teacher. “I am excited we get to keep her name alive on this campus and help students succeed,” says Davis.

Endowments have long been an integral part of supporting Union College. “For a long time the most popular endowment our donors made was for student scholarships,” says Davis. “Those are so important, and we definitely still need those. But recently people have broadened their thinking about the impact they want to make. We are seeing more program endowments.”

When setting up or contributing to an endowment, donors can choose an area that resonates with their passion. The ongoing nature of endowment funds means it gives financial stability and allows the recipient to move forward with long range plans from year to year that better serve students.

“It is a guaranteed source of income every year,” says Davis. “We can count on the funds being there, and it helps us make plans for the future.”

Endowments are for everyone

“Anyone can contribute to existing endowments,” Davis explains. “After the ‘kids’ announced their gift, Barbara and her husband were so impressed they each contributed too!”

Thomas Goyne says he knows how hard it is for students who have a learning disability and don’t come from a wealthy family. “The reason things turned out so well for my brother, who is now a physician with a diverse personal library, is my family had the means to get him the help he needed.” Thomas says he has seen many students who do need help, but their family can’t afford the thousands of dollars to make it happen.

“Together we can step in and create that support,” he continues. “I hope some of the people who have benefited from the TLC through the years can also contribute to this endowment.”

If you would like to create an endowment to honor someone in your life, contact the Union College Advancement Office at advance@ucollege.edu or 402.486.2503.

Carrie Purkeypile is a Union College graduate and freelance writer based in Sacramento, California.