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Former faculty leaves parting gift of $100,000 to Palomar Foundation in her will

Story by Kena Haun

The creation of a $100,000 endowment to be disbursed over the next 10 years, was announced by the Palomar Foundation during the February Governing Board meeting.

The endowment was made possible through the will of a former Palomar faculty member, April Christine Woods. Woods was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in December of 2016, and passed in March of 2017.

“We have scholarships for tuition, books, and those kinds of things, but this was unique and very specific,” said Stacy Rungaitis, Director of the Palomar Foundation.

Rungaitis emphasized just how special the gift is, “this particular legacy gift is special because it was one of our own colleagues. We did not even know about the donation until she had passed.”

Woods got her start at Palomar in 1988. Melissa Grant, co-executor of Woods’ will and close friend hers since age 17 said

“April did not anticipate going to college growing up, it did not seem financially feasible,” Grant said, “I know at some point, when she was trying to get her education, she was practically living out of her car just to get it going.”

“She could just see the trends of how things were going to happen,” Grant said when asked what inspired Woods to denote her donation for this purpose. “She was an advocate for students where she could see things happening that would negatively affect the students, would actively work to fix it, and she was fine with ruffling the feathers along the way do it.”

The fund happened in a special convergence of her interests that met student needs.

“In the top five things she loved were Palomar, her students’ education, and travel,” Grant said.

Rungaitis concurs with Grant on the notion of Woods’ incredible foresight into student needs.

“At the luncheon for Giving Tuesday this past year, two faculty members came up and asked us if we ever did any stipends or something for students to travel,” Rungaitis said. “Because in those particular departments there was a need that they would like to help students with.”

Woods had a 25-year career at Palomar. She served for a time on Faculty Senate and remained involved throughout the time of her employment.

“If you spoke to anyone about her, you would hear the word ‘beloved,’” Rungaitis said. “She was always looking out for the benefit of the students, she would fight for the students, and she just saw a need there.”

It is the Foundations’ hope that her scholarship will allow her to continually be involved with students of Palomar past the 10-year plan.

“She wanted the foundation to use this to inspire other people, staff members, alumni, and anyone that has the capability to do the same thing. It is not necessarily how much, just that you think about it,” Rungaitis said.

The sentiment of Woods wanting to truly inspire others who have ever been impacted by Palomar, even in the slightest degree, to donate to the students was echoed.

Rungaitis noted, “we are also encouraging that faculty and staff reading this, because we are hoping to continue this scholarship that they donate in her name so that it can keep going.”

“She wants to be an inspiration for everyone to just kind of look at their portfolio,” Grant stated in a separate interview, “even if it is just $25 a month because the need is definitely there and the reward is great.”

Kim Hartwell, the Foundation’s development officer offered a rough timeline on the scholarship’s availability.

“This will be made available and advertised on the Foundation’s website over the next couple weeks,” Hartwell said, “There will be a specialized application. We want to give away as much as we can, maximum of $1,000 per person. We have never seen a scholarship like this before, very specific and filling a need we had nothing set aside for.”

During the presentation of the check at the Governing Board meeting, several people were moved to tears as Grant read a quote from one of Woods’ final sentiments:

“My wish for you is, don’t hold back on what you really want to do. Follow your dreams, follow your heart. Remember to always be kind. Peace and blessings.”

Image Sources

  • AprilWoods: Palomar Telescope | All Rights Reserved
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