Louise and Deb Brinegar both say that Wichita State was woven into the fabric of their family, so it was an easy decision for the sisters to create scholarships here.
“WSU allowed our parents to achieve the dreams they had as a couple,” said Deb. “The lifelong desire to learn, to give back to the community and to expand their horizons, that was a part of what they took away from here. We want to honor their heritage.”
Their parents, Wayne and Frances Brinegar, were both Wichita State alumni and met at the university, and their history at WSU didn’t end when they graduated. Louise recalls holidays spent with university exchange students and her mother’s help in supporting a student who didn’t quite have the funds for a study abroad semester.
“She was always a proponent for students who maybe didn’t have all those opportunities,” she said. “I’m hoping in a small way I’m paying that forward.”
The idea to create scholarships began with their parents as well. In 2008, their mother established the Wayne and Frances Powers Brinegar Scholarship supporting biology and geology students like herself and her deceased husband. When she passed away, Louise wanted to create another scholarship to support students in her own major, Liberal Arts and Sciences. Deb, though not a WSU graduate, wanted to create a need based aid scholarship for students here as well.
“To take it a step further, my husband, Gene Carr, just established a scholarship in the Fine Arts department for students in the tech and design side of theater,” Louise said, grinning. “It’s kind of spreading in all directions!”
The sisters credit their parents for helping both of them graduate without student debt, and they hope their scholarships can help relieve some of the financial burden for students in the same way.
“I don’t have any children, and I kind of think of the scholarship recipients as part of me and part of my parents in continuing that legacy,” said Deb. “If I can make it so another student doesn’t have to work two or three jobs, that’s great.”
That was echoed by Louise, who highlighted how much the college landscape has changed since her years as a student here. “You have to work a little harder than we did in my day, and I feel like we worked really hard! I’m so impressed by the students who make that commitment.”
Louise and Deb also have planned gifts set up to further their scholarships after their death, and hope that it will be able to increase the positive impact they will have in students’ lives.
“When I thought about the things that were important to me, Wichita State was right up there,” Louise said. “To me, it has always been home.”