A generous heart, a caring friend, and a grateful alumnus have provided the key ingredients
resulting in Peru State’s single largest gift ever received: $2,100,000, from the
estate of Norma Jeanne Fensler. The gift will be devoted to scholarships.
College President Dan Hanson commented, “The number one need facing students today is financial support to begin college, and financial support to help them stay in school through graduation. This contribution will be life-changing for many students.”
The story of this life-changing gift began with Norma Jeanne Fensler, known to her friends as Jeanne. She was born in Kokomo, Indiana and later married her beloved husband Edward Leon Fensler on September 6, 1947 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. While natives of the Midwest, eventually they made their way west and spent much of their adult lives in California.
Norma Jeanne Fensler
Pam and Fred Robertson (’73) were also Midwestern transplants to California. Pam met
Jeanne shortly after Edward’s death in the late 1980s when Pam assisted Jeanne as
her realtor buying and selling two homes. Through this process, Pam Robertson became
a close friend and confidant.
Pam played a pivotal role in Jeanne’s later years helping her with all manner of daily challenges as Jeanne aged and struggled with Alzheimer’s disease. Several years before the onset of Alzheimer’s, Pam orchestrated a meeting with an attorney to set up a Living Trust to determine what would happen with Jeanne’s estate as she had no living children or relatives. At that time, Jeanne asked Pam to direct the proceeds of her estate to a cause Pam felt was worthy.
Knowing that higher education brings greater opportunity in today’s society, and being very familiar with the good work being done by the Peru State College Foundation through her husband and having served as a former Board Co-Director of the Foundation herself, Pam directed the proceeds of Jeanne’s estate to create the Norma Jeanne Fensler Memorial Scholarship at Peru State College.
From left to right: Fred Robertson ('73), Pam Robertson, President Dan Hanson, Becca Jewell
Pam said, “Fred and I both come from rural areas in Indiana and Iowa and know how
hard it is for kids from those areas to be able to afford a college education. Our
hope is that this will help those in need, especially those from the four-state region
around Peru, to attend college and ultimately better their lives with a degree.”
Fred Robertson’s gratitude for his Peru State College education persists to this day. He proudly wears his Peru State College ring and speaks highly of the professors who made an impact on him. “The professors who invested in me as a student changed my life,” said Fred. “Professors like Lyle McKercher, Daryl Long, Al Brady, John Christ, and many others were experts in their fields. They taught me so much, but I also know that they cared about me as a person. That was very motivating for me as a student.”
Pam’s intent for the Norma Jeanne Fensler Memorial Scholarship is to allow students who would not otherwise be able to attend college the opportunity to attend Peru State and seek a degree. Pam also intends this scholarship to memorialize the kindness and generosity of her dear friend Jeanne.
Pam said, “Jeanne always wished she could have had children but was never blessed with any. Making this gift to the college is a way for her to help children she never had herself. “
The Norma Jeanne Fensler Memorial Scholarship will provide more than $80,000 in scholarships each year. Scholarship awards will start at $2,000 per year and will be awarded to full-time first-year students who have financial need. The Fensler Scholarships are renewable for students who remain in good academic standing. The first Fensler Scholarships will be available in January 2021.
Hanson noted, “Every year, we have students who sit out a semester or maybe a full year to work. Sometimes they have to support their families because the family income is very low or unstable. All of these students have a goal and a dream to earn a college education. The Fensler Scholarship will help students every year who face this type of economic challenge.”
Interim Foundation CEO Rebecca Jewell stated, “The Norma Jeanne Fensler Memorial Scholarship increases the Foundation’s annual scholarship awarding capacity by more than one-third, to nearly $400,000 per year. This gift will allow the Foundation to have an even greater impact in meeting the financial needs of Peru State students.”
Dan Hanson noted, “Pam and Fred Robertson were the catalyst that brought this incredible gift to Peru State College. Pam’s devoted friendship and Fred’s lifelong gratitude for his Peru State College education will be celebrated and commended as the conduits for this transformational gift.”