Yvonne Smith (left) and Kim Pearman-Gillman (right)

Kim Pearman-Gillman and Yvonne Smith share a love for Eastern Washington University. They also share the same birthday. So, it was only natural that they started an annual bash that not only celebrates another trip around the sun, but also celebrates and raises money for deserving EWU students.

In 2018 the friends established the Empowering Women Upward Fund and started hosting an annual birthday dinner party to raise money for the scholarship fund. For many women, making a life-changing commitment to pursue higher education for herself or her family is a challenge she cannot complete alone. Kim and Yvonne want to honor women for their hard work and diligence in seeking to enhance their lives.

“This scholarship has been created to honor the unrelenting spirit of a first-generation, female, Eastern Washington University student, 35 and over, who has not given up on her dream of earning a college degree no matter the obstacles,” says Yvonne.

Due to the pandemic, the women had to cancel their March birthday event. But because the real reason for the party is so important to them, they still hosted a virtual event and raised money for the scholarship fund.

“Now, more than ever, women who want to provide for their families and get ahead need our support to show we believe in them,” says Kim. “We really do have great friends and families and are so thankful that they let us use our shared birthday to do something we couldn’t do alone.”

On GivingTuesday, Kim and Yvonne asked donors to make a gift in honor of their friend and fellow Empowering Women Upward supporter, Marie Marx Strohm, who recently died unexpectedly.

Marie Marx Strohm

“Marie would have been at the event and supporting us like she has each year before,” says Kim. “You can help keep her bright light alive by donating. Education and empowering women were two of her top priorities.”

On GivingTuesday, an anonymous donor, in honor of Marie, made a generous gift of $10,000 to the Empowering Women Upward Fund and is encouraging other donors to match the gift to help even more students. When you give a gift to this scholarship fund, your dollars will go twice as far and will ensure deserving women receive the motivation they need to complete their degrees.


Our Goal on GivingTuesday:
Help students by finishing up scholarship endowments

GivingTuesday is a global generosity movement that unleashes the power of people and organizations, like EWU, to transform their communities and the world. Many EWU students are facing new financial challenges due to the pandemic. Scholarship support is critical at a time like this.

We identified several scholarship funds that are very close to being endowed. Once our donors help them reach endowment, more students will benefit from scholarship support—and more students will stay Eagle Strong!