Pete and Cathie Meldrum establish a $1 million scholarship for first-generation students
by Audrey Maynard (’03)
Pete and Cathie Meldrum are best known on campus as the naming donors to the Meldrum Science Center, which opened in 2010. Behind the scenes, however, the Meldrums have been quiet champions of student success for decades. Cathie has served on the Woman’s Board for more than 35 years, and Pete was a leader on the board of trustees until his retirement in 2014. Although they are not alums from of college, Pete and Cathie have devoted their time and money to helping make a Westminster education accessible to all who seek it.
The Meldrums first established scholarships in aviation at Westminster to honor the passions of their fathers. When he was CEO of biotech firm Myriad Genetics, Pete created scholarships for physics, chemistry, and biology majors because he believes that the liberal arts core at Westminster prepares future scientists to think critically and communicate effectively. Now the Meldrums have turned their attention to students who are the first in their families to attend college by donating $1 million to create the Meldrum First-Generation Scholarship.
Cathie knows first-hand the power of scholarships, particularly for first-generation students. Her mother, Ada, born to Italian immigrants in a Utah mining town, was the first in her family to attend college. Ada believed that education was the key to a fulfilling life, and she worked diligently to help her six children pursue their educational dreams.
Scholarships eased Cathie’s path to a college degree; therefore, she and Pete have made it a personal mission to help others on their journey to higher education.
“I like what Nelson Mandela said: ‘Education is the most powerful tool you can use to change the world,’” says Pete. “It really opens doors—not just for the individual, but for the whole family, and for generation after generation.”
More than 25 percent of Westminster’s financial-aid applicants are first-generation students. Sarah Stalpes (’18) is a first-generation student from Moab, Utah, who enrolled at Westminster after receiving a significant scholarship package. Her experience has had its ups and downs, but she asserts that the nurturing campus community has made it possible for her to continue toward her degree in public health.
“The community here is unlike anything else I have experienced,” she says. “The teachers and staff genuinely care about you and your well-being. They understand the struggles college students endure and do their best to work with people on an individual level.”
She adds that more resources are needed for first-generation students and is thankful to the Meldrum family for investing in students like her, many of whom have not had mentors to help prepare them for college life.
“From my experiences, students whose families attended college are more prepared for the college scene and know what to expect as far as workload and juggling social life is concerned,” she says. “In many cases I feel like first-gen students have to work twice as hard.”
When Pete was on the board of trustees, he was surprised to hear about the students who were struggling, many of whom were in jeopardy of dropping out over a deficit of just a few hundred dollars. Although the first-generation scholarship is intended for students entering their first year at Westminster, funds can be directed to students with acute need who are closer to finishing their degrees.
“In the immediate term, we hope they graduate and that our gift affects the rate of students who complete their time at Westminster,” he says. “Long term, we hope the students will make a difference in society—that they will use what they have learned to contribute to the lives of others.”
Sarah is working hard to achieve her first goal of graduating from Westminster before pursuing a master’s degree in genetics counseling. She is grateful for the support she has received on her educational journey and hopes to be able to help students who face similar challenges in the future.
“I seriously cannot say ‘thank you’ enough,” she says. “They have made it possible for me and others like me. I hope that I will be able to give back to others as they have to me.”
For Pete and Cathie, the joy they have experienced in supporting Westminster students boils down to an age-old adage: It’s better to give than to receive.
“We’ve been lucky to be in the position to give back,” Cathie says. “It was part of our upbringing, and it’s something we’ve always felt is very important to do.”
You, too, can support first-generation students at Westminster. Contact the Office of Advancement at 801.832.2730 to learn how.
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.