Senior class endowment honors memory of student

by Catherine Porter

The basis for this year’s graduating class gift will be an endowment in remembrance of Taylor Fenters, who passed away during his sophomore year at Whitworth. The endowment will help fund Spring Break mission trips.

An endowment means money is raised for a project but not all of the money is spent directly on that project. Instead, annual dividends will be put into the project in order to fund the project continually, director of alumni and parent relations and annual giving Aaron McMurray said.

Senior Curtis Gatley, a close friend of Fenters during his time at school, was with him for the later stages of his battle with cancer. Gatley first met Fenters on move-in day, in 2009.

“We had Freshman Seminar together and very quickly became best friends,” Gatley said.

Gatley said he got a phone call on homecoming weekend from Fenters saying that he was going to Seattle.

“Twenty minutes later we were on the road with a few friends,” Gatley said.

Fenters took many pictures and videos of this trip, Gatley said. On days that he misses his friend, he looks through those photos. They are memories he cherishes, Gatley said.

Fenters had been struggling with a rare form of cancer  common in children. He was diagnosed with cancer when he was 13 years old and was considered relatively old to have contracted it. When Gatley met Fenters during freshman year, he was in remission, Gatley said.

Fenters came back for his sophomore year in which he and Gatley were roommates. His head hurt and he had hip pains, but the doctors did not think that it was the same thing, Gatley said. Fenters went home Thanksgiving Break and did not come back to school. At that time Fenters was given three months to live, Gatley said.

Gatley spent the next three months with Fenters and on Jan. 18, 2011, Fenters died of cancer.

The senior class is honoring Fenters’ life with its gift. The endowment given by the senior class will be in Fenters’ name, the official title being, “The Class of 2013 Taylor Fenters Service Endowment.” The endowment is a way to commemorate Fenters in a way the senior class thinks he would support, senior class coordinator Kelly Schlect said.

“We have been in contact with the family and they are supportive of it too,” Schlect said.

All the Spring Break trips will be affected by this gift, including those to Jamaica. Senior Jack Dunbar has gone on multiple Spring Break trips taking more than 50 students to Jamaica. Those trips primarily help Jamaica Christian School for the Deaf, a K-12 boarding school for the deaf. At that site the students help with construction. They also help at an orphanage site, with newborns to age eight, and help take care of the infants.

“Life is about living in community,” Dunbar said. “It’s not about you but about serving others, Taylor did that.”

Dunbar has heard from others in his class who are excited about the gift.

“We had the opportunity to construct monuments,” Dunbar said. “Buildings will turn to dust. Investing in people will never go bad.”

McMurray has been an active participant in securing the outside donor for this year’s endowment. In order to have a successful endowment, money from other areas must be supplied. The senior class alone, in previous years, has only been able to raise about $10,000 to $12,000. The donor then is needed to match what is made in order to have a substantial endowment.

The donor for this year’s gift is trustee emeritus Dick Cole, along with his wife Liz Cole. A trustee emeritus is a faithful and long-serving trustee who can come to any meeting but is no longer an active trustee, McMurray said. In order to be a donor, he had two conditions, he said. The first was that the project had to be an endowment, and the second that the money needed to motivate many seniors to participate in the fundraising.

“I am proud of them for honoring Taylor’s life and legacy,” McMurray said. “Choosing a gift that will bless Whitworth and leave a legacy that will bless their class as they are alumni. The most memorable part of an endowment is that we will always have this fund.”

The deadline for seniors to make contributions to their gift is Thursday, May 16 at 5 p.m. Contributions can be made at the Info Desk, over the phone or online.

Contact Catherine Porter at

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