The late Oregon native and philanthropist Jean Sewell Donly left a gift to SOU’s Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies (GSWS) Program that will have a strong and lasting impact. GSWS Assistant Professor Carey Jean Sojka says the department is grateful. “I don’t believe Jean Donly was an SOU alum, but she cared about Southern Oregon and she wanted the women’s studies program taken care of,” said Sojka. “People are really excited about having this financial support.”
Jean Donly was raised in Portland, and at one point lived in the Rogue River area of Southern Oregon. She is remembered as a talented interior decorator and a compassionate person who was strongly invested in her community. She often gave her time to the Portland Art Museum and supported many charitable organizations. Her sizeable gift to the GSWS program, says Sojka, will help support students and expand course offerings. “We have a lot of ideas as to how to use the endowment,” Sojka said. “We are hoping to continue to grow the program over the next few years, and this endowment will really help.”
Donly’s gift is unrestricted, so the program has flexibility in how to use the funds. “We’d love to be able to offer a retreat for our students, maybe a class off campus in which students in a particular cohort can attend a week-long cohort- or team- building event,” said Sojka. “Another idea is to support a scholarship for students entering the program,” she added.
Currently, the GSWS program at SOU is offered as a minor. The coursework examines how gender and sexuality intersect to help shape the human experience. In addition to classroom learning, the program also emphasizes real-world applications and community involvement.
Donly’s gift will also help shine a light on GSWS at SOU. “Our program is unique in how interdisciplinary it is,” said Sojka. “We intersect with so many courses and programs across the university—biology, English, Native American studies, psychology, and anthropology to name a few,” she said.