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Giving Back: Funding a Scholarship through Charitable Gift Annuities

At a time when women were often relegated to secretarial roles in the workplace, Jeanne (Odell) Strayer '45 broke ground as a programmer and analyst in the then-new-and-exciting world of computers. Her achievements were possible, in part, because of her Lycoming College education- paid for through a one-year full scholarship- and because of her personal strength and courage to chart new territory. Her yearbook quote says it all: "To be strong is to be happy."

A high school valedictorian from Hughesville, Pa., Jeanne received a fully paid, one-year scholarship to Lycoming (then Dickinson Seminary). She chose business stenography for her studies. This is where her story begins.

Jeanne was on her way to more than taking notes in shorthand or transcribing with a stenography machine. Only on Lycoming's campus for a year, she was nonetheless vice president of her class and served as editor for the newspaper. A few short years after graduating, she received a stellar grade on a civil service exam and was appointed to the Bureau of Naval Weapons in Washington, D.C.

She quickly transitioned from the clerical field to computer programmer to "a masterful analyst," according to a commendation award from the Department of the Navy for her work on its financial management system.

During this time, Jeanne had a blind date with a Navy engineer. After serving in the South Pacific, Frank Strayer had developed cooling devices for ships that earned him a promotion to Washington and an opportunity to earn a master's in engineering at George Washington University.

In 1967, they tied the knot. "And there's never a dull moment since!" Jeanne said.

Jeanne and Frank have a spirit that can fill an entire room. After successful careers and 43 years of marriage, the Strayers have found themselves living their lifelong dream. It was this realization of the own dreams and strength of spirit that instills in the couple a desire to enable the dreams of others.

The Strayers have chosen to support Lycoming through an endowed scholarship for deserving students majoring in mathematics and computer science. "I loved that work so much and built a very successful career on it," Jeanne said. "This is payback for me. As someone who benefited from financial aid, I'm glad to give back so that other young men and women have the same opportunity I did."

The couple is funding the scholarship through two charitable gift annuities. "It's a win-win for both of us and the College," Frank said. "We receive a stream of income for life and tax benefits from the gift, but we're also investing in America's future by helping young people get a degree from Lycoming."

After retiring from the Navy in 1973, the couple took a two-month tour of the country. Since then, they have journeyed the world, including their two favorite trips: one to China and the other to Australia and New Zealand. "We're so happy and have a wonderful life," says Jeanne. "We want that for others. I hope other alumni will consider supporting Lycoming as we do."

(Note: Frank Strayer passed away several months after this story was told.)

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