Jean Arthur: ‘passionate about young people and their education’
November 9, 2018
A Florida woman who was a lifelong Presbyterian, a savvy investor and a pioneer for women in the Chicago banking industry has left a bequest of more than $1 million to the Presbyterian Foundation. The money is being used to establish a fund for scholarships for students attending colleges and universities affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Jean I. Arthur, who died Oct. 28, 2017, at the age of 87, earned a bachelor’s degree from a PC(USA)-related school — Lake Forest College, on the outskirts of Chicago. She was passionate about education, says Peter M. Knize, a senior vice president at Investors’ Security Trust in Fort Myers, Florida, who knew Arthur well and was appointed her personal representative.
“She was well read, and her house was packed with books,” he said. “She was passionate about young people and their education.”
“This is truly make-a-difference money,” said Laura Bryan, coordinator of Financial Aid for Service in the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Bryan, whose office awards more than 100 scholarships annually, said the money from the Jean I. Arthur Memorial Fund will provide scholarships for 10 more students per year.
Some of those additional scholarships could be as large as $10,000. Smaller scholarships make it easier to attend college, said Bryan, but $10,000 could actually make it possible for a lower-income student, who may have ruled out private colleges because of cost considerations, to attend a PC(USA)-related institution.
The new funding comes at an opportune time for the Presbyterian Mission Agency, which has set a goal to increase scholarship awards during the next two years. The base award for undergraduates will increase to $4,000. Additional amounts will be awarded to people of color, immigrants (both naturalized, permanent resident and undocumented students), and students from low-income families.
Students will begin benefiting from the Arthur Fund in 2020. “When we have a new endowment, we allow dividends and interest to be reinvested for a year to allow it to grow,” said Anita Clemons, vice president and managing director of investments for the Presbyterian Foundation.
“Once distributions from the fund start, they will continue in perpetuity,” Clemons said. Arthur grew up in Chicago, an only child, whose father was a long-serving court justice in Illinois. After graduating from college in the 1950s, she went to work in a bank in Chicago.
“Jean started her career at a time when a woman with a B.A. got a typewriter and was a secretary, while a man with a high school diploma would be hired in as a vice president,” Knize said. But by the 1960s, Arthur had worked her way up to become the first woman officer of a Chicago bank.
“She was a driving force for change in a man’s world,” he added.
Arthur, who never married, was also a good investor. “She knew more about the stock market than some of our professional investors,” Knize said.
She lived a modest life, saving and investing her money, and “ended up dying a millionaire.”
After retiring, Arthur moved to Florida with her aunt and joined Covenant Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers. Soon after the move, her aunt had a massive stroke. Refusing to accept the grim prognosis offered by doctors, Arthur took over her aunt’s rehabilitation and the woman lived another 12 happy and fruitful years.
At age 82, Arthur, who had never smoked, was diagnosed with lung cancer. She was on oxygen and in hospice care when Hurricane Irma hit in September 2017. Knize took her to a “special needs shelter” to ride out the storm. The shelter turned out to be a high school gymnasium packed with 150 beds.
“She was there four days,” he recalled. “She was so tough, so thankful to have a place to go. She made friends with everyone. She cared more about other people’s health than she did her own.”
Knize was at her side five weeks later, when Arthur died at home. The bulk of her estate — $1,112,710 — went to the Foundation.
Knize recalled that in her later years, Arthur kept a Bible beside her and read from it every day. He believes she had thought long and deeply about what her final legacy should be. “She knew the benefits of giving and what could be done with her gift,” he said.
“I think this was something she wanted to do her whole life.”
By Eva Stimson for the Presbyterian Foundation
Today’s Focus: Jean Arthur, Donor Towards Scholarships/Education
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Lord, thank you for your blessings. Teach us to be cheerful givers who use your gifts in ways that will bless others. Amen.