Centenarian benefactor Eva Gordon had humble roots, gave little indication of her accumulated wealth
December 13, 2019
Eva Gordon was a hard-working woman who was ahead of her time. Having lived a long and happy life she had few regrets, save one: not having a formal education herself.
“If I had a scholarship when I got out of high school, I could have done so much more,” Gordon said in a 2013 profile by South Seattle College.
Thanks to a generous gift of nearly $10 million from the Eva Gordon Estate, the students at seventeen Washington community and technical colleges will have the opportunity to fulfill their dreams. The gift is one of the largest to community and technical colleges in Washington State, with each college foundation receiving approximately $550,000.
Gordon, who passed away in June, 2018 at the age of 105, grew up on an orchard in Eugene, Oregon and graduated at the top of her high school class. Little by little she invested money from meager paychecks to build a fortune and give back to others. During this time, Gordon loved seeing college students work hard and improve their lives, wishing she could have been a student herself if money hadn’t been so tight in her younger years.
“A lot of people didn’t know the wealth she had. If there was a coupon for two-for-one at Applebee’s, she was all about that,” said John Jacobs, her godson and estate representative. “She liked seeing students working, earning and doing things. Her goal was to provide an opportunity for those folks who could ill-afford it, whether vocational training or an academic skill.”
“North Seattle College joins its 17 community college peers in deep gratitude to Eva Gordon. Her generous gift will help remove financial barriers for generations of students across the state, and open up opportunity to them that might not otherwise exist. Eva’s generous philanthropy demonstrates the difference that a single individual can make in the lives of countless others, and we are humbled and honored to share in her legacy through this support."
-- Warren Brown, President, North Seattle College
After graduating from high school, Eva Gordon went to work as a legal secretary and later for a Seattle investment firm. She married her husband, Ed Gordon, in 1964 and together they shared a common dedication to higher education.
Ed Gordon, who passed away in 2008, was able to go to college thanks to the encouragement and support of his aunt. After graduating from college, he became a Navy pilot and flew patrol bombers during World War II and the Korean War — an opportunity he credited to his college degree. After serving his country, Ed settled in Seattle where he met Eva. Ed worked as a stock broker and together, they taught courses at the McNeil Corrections Center. Ed would deliver curriculum on business practices, while Eva led the group in warm-up exercises.
“Generous gifts such as these not only support students as they change their lives through the power of education, They reaffirm our faith in the future, and support Seattle Central’s work to effect change and solve the challenges facing our region.”
-- Sheila Edwards-Lange, President, Seattle Central College
With jobs, family responsibilities and a median age of 26, Washington’s community and technical college students are often one step away from having to quit college to pay the bills. The recipient college foundations will be able to help students pay for books, fees, supplies, technology needs, housing, transportation, food, child care and unexpected financial emergencies that could otherwise stand in the way of their success. Each college foundation will work with its board and school administrators to decide how funds are allocated to maximize opportunities for students.
“Eva had a tremendous heart and liked to throw a rope to help people climb,” remembers John Jacobs.
The college foundations below are receiving donations from the Eva Gordon estate. During their lives, Eva and John Gordon often made generous contributions to South Seattle College as well.
- Bates Technical College
- Cascadia College
- Clover Park Technical College
- Edmonds Community College
- Everett Community College
- Grays Harbor College
- Green River Community College
- Highline College
- Lake Washington Institute of Technology
- North Seattle College
- Pierce College Foundation
- Renton Technical College
- Seattle Central College
- Shoreline Community College
- Skagit Valley College
- South Puget Sound Community College
- Tacoma Community College
About the Seattle Colleges Foundation
The mission of the Seattle Colleges Foundation is to catalyze community support to advance the mission, work, and impact of Seattle Colleges with the vision of transforming lives, promoting equity, and increasing access to quality, affordable education. Learn more about Seattle Colleges Foundation at foundation.seattlecolleges.edu.
About Seattle Colleges
Seattle Colleges serves metropolitan Seattle and surrounding communities and is the largest community college district in Washington state. The district includes Seattle Central College on Capitol Hill, North Seattle College near Northgate, and South Seattle College in West Seattle, as well as five specialty training centers across the city: the Wood Technology Center in the Central District, the Health Education Center at Pacific Tower, the Seattle Maritime Academy in Ballard, the Georgetown campus, and New Holly Learning Center on Beacon Hill. Learn more at seattlecolleges.edu.