An Act of Sisterhood
Westminster alums pave the way for students through surprise donation
by Sara McCaskey (’14)
Not all gifts come from well-known philanthropists. Unexpected millionaires Lucille and Myra Harris are true examples of that. The sisters attended Westminster in the 1930s, leaving their family ranch in southwest Wyoming to pursue their educations.
Lucille earned her associate’s degree from Westminster before transferring to the University of Utah to complete her bachelor’s degree in English. She later attended the University of Denver where she earned a master’s degree in library science.
Myra completed one year at Westminster, then continued her education at the Holy Cross Hospital School of Nursing. She later received a bachelor’s degree in nursing from St. Mary’s of the Wasatch Catholic School. She also earned an additional degree as a nurse anesthetist from the Sacred Heart Hospital School in Spokane, Washington.
Over the years, their appreciation for the education they received at Westminster deepened.
Education was always important to the Harris family. In fact, their mother was a certified teacher who dedicated many years to homeschooling Lucille and Myra. But those early years at Westminster were truly formative, setting them on paths toward becoming successful in their careers.
After graduating, Lucille became the librarian at Judge Memorial High School, then worked for more than 40 years at the main Salt Lake City Library, retiring as the assistant head librarian.
Myra spent her life as a nurse educator and a nurse administrator at Holy Cross Hospital in Salt Lake City. Throughout her career, she served as a progressive mentor and role model for many women.
Lucille and Myra chose to remain single rather than marry, focusing instead on their professional endeavors. They worked hard and lived frugally, quietly growing their savings.
When the sisters passed away—Lucille in 1991 and Myra in 2014—they found a way to continue their legacy of loyalty and generosity by leaving a shocking $1 million estate gift to Westminster. In doing so, they hoped to continue supporting the causes they had advocated for their entire lives: education, nursing, the arts, and the community they loved so much. Their $1 million gift will be used to support students across Westminster’s campus, with the majority of the funds going toward scholarships in education and nursing.
Scholarships like these have an immense impact, especially for students in programs that demand out-of-class time, like student-teaching for education students and clinical hours for nursing students. Sheryl Steadman, dean of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences at Westminster, says her students depend on scholarship support to manage their rigorous course loads.
“Students need to be able to focus on classroom and clinical time,” she explains. “With 12–14 hours of clinical per week—plus lab time and studying—students find they really can’t work 30–40 hours per week to pay tuition.”
The Harris sisters’ gift, along with other gifts like theirs, helps to make a top-notch education affordable and accessible to all students.
“Scholarships make Westminster an option,” Sheryl says.
“Thank goodness we have people like the Harris sisters.”
Education and nursing aren’t the only areas the Harris sisters’ gift will help support.
As members of the Woman’s Board, both Lucille and Myra wanted to continue contributing to the board’s meaningful work. A portion of their gift will be used to fund the Woman’s Board scholarships, bringing the total amount of the Woman’s Board scholarship funds to over $1 million—the largest amount in the history of the Woman’s Board.
A portion of the gift will also go toward the new performing arts addition to the Jewett Center for the Performing Arts in recognition of the work of Linda Kelm, an opera singer and graduate of Westminster who was a close friend of the Harris family.
“Lucille and Myra Harris are great models of the power of a Westminster education,” President Stephen Morgan says. “These new scholarships will pave the way for future Westminster students to follow in the Harris sisters’ footsteps, using their college education to give back to the community in powerful, meaningful ways.”
About the Westminster Review
The Westminster Review is Westminster University’s bi-annual alumni magazine that is distributed to alumni and community members. Each issue aims to keep alumni updated on campus current events and highlights the accomplishments of current students, professors, and Westminster alum.