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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bradford Woman Leaves $1 Million For Scholarships


BRADFORD, Pa. -- The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford has received a $1 million gift that will yield $2 million in endowed scholarship funds.

Agnes L. Thomas, a resident of Bradford for more than 50 years, provided in her will a bequest to the university that will be used to fund the Agnes L. and Lewis Lyle Thomas Scholarship Challenge.

“This was a very pleasant surprise for all of us at Pitt-Bradford,” said Dr. Livingston Alexander, president. “Needless to say, we’re delighted that Mrs. Thomas saw fit to leave this generous gift for our institution.

“The scholarship challenge comes at a crucial time, as many students are struggling to come up with the funds to cover college expenses. Mrs. Thomas would be pleased to know that her generous gift will give rise to a number of new scholarships and an expansion of existing scholarships. As a campus community, we take comfort in knowing that we’re not in this struggle alone.”

For as long as the funds last, the challenge will allow donors to double the amount of gifts between $5,000 and $50,000 to new or existing scholarships. The gifts must be paid within five years to be eligible. For example, a $5,000 gift pledged over five years will yield a $10,000 gift to endow a scholarship or add to a scholarship fund.

“Given the current economic conditions that students and families are facing, scholarships have never been more important in assisting students to continue with their educations,” said Dr. K. James Evans, vice president and dean of student affairs.

“Sometimes a small amount of money can go a long way, resulting in the difference between a student remaining in college or having to withdraw for financial reasons. Individuals who choose to endow a scholarship at Pitt-Bradford see great returns on their investment in the form of graduates who become productive and contributing members of the workforce and society.”

Agnes Thomas was born and grew up in Pitcairn, graduating from Pitcairn High School. She married Lewis Lyle Thomas in 1937.

Mrs. Thomas graduated with honors from the Pittsburgh Academy Business School and worked as an executive secretary at Dresser Manufacturing and later for Dr. Gordon Huff and Dr. Edward Roche.

She was a member of St. Francis of Assisi Church, the Pennhills Club and the Bradford Club and loved playing bridge.

“Mrs. Thomas was very generous with local churches and organizations,” said Alan Gordon, executor of her estate and her accountant for more than 20 years. “She had a great interest in children, and was impressed by the letters of appreciation written by past and current scholarship recipients.”

Lewis Lyle Thomas was an engineer for the former Bradford Motor Works who died unexpectedly in 1969.

The scholarship challenge has been popular with donors in the past.

In 2002, the Reed-Coit Scholarship Challenge raised $2 million for scholarships through the bequests of sisters Dorothy H. Reed and Berdena Reed Coit.

Karen Niemic Buchheit, executive director of institutional advancement and managing director of the Bradford Educational Foundation, said that the Reed-Coit scholarship challenge “was extremely popular, and people have been asking since the last one if there was going to be another one. Most of our major gifts have been through bequests, which is an extremely popular way to benefit a charity and leave a legacy.”

“The estate distribution is yet another example of the phenomenal support we receive from the community,” Alexander said. “Our friends and supporters see the good that comes out of our campus and want to see it continue.”

For more information, contact the Office of Institutional Advancement at (814)362-5091 or e-mail Buchheit at

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