Mrs. Iversen and the Power of Endowment

Gulf Coast


Dorothy Iversen is helping dozens of Lemon Bay High School graduates pursue higher education next fall.

About 40 students will receive a total of nearly $40,000 in financial aid from the scholarship fund that Mrs. Iversen created at Gulf Coast Community Foundation. Since 2008, her fund has awarded more than 300 scholarships worth over $275,000. Dorothy passed away in 2011, but as the endowment she left continues to grow, so will the amount we can invest directly in promising local students each year.

The photo above this column shows dear Dorothy with the first four recipients of her scholarship back in 2008. Greg Luberecki on the Gulf Coast staff remembers picking her up at her modest Englewood home that summer day for the short ride to Lemon Bay High. He’s not sure the passenger-side airbag even activated after he helped petite Mrs. Iverson into his car. But Greg recalls taking the drive extra slowly anyway to enjoy the lively conversation punctuated by her hearty laugh.

Dorothy valued education, going back to the technical training programs that impressed her as a youth in Norway. A longtime resident of Englewood, she wanted to help young people from the community she loved attend college to improve their lives. While Dorothy had been “down” for some time after her beloved husband, Arne, passed in 2006, she found renewed joy upon realizing she could help others through philanthropy because Arne had so carefully ensured she was well cared for.

“I wanted to see my inheritance do some good during my lifetime,” she said of creating her scholarship, named for her and her husband.

Dorothy beamed upon meeting those first four students who would benefit from her assistance. They gladly made time amid busy schedules of summer employment or packing up for an early move to campus so they could personally thank their generous benefactor. The image focusing on sweet Dorothy in the foreground with four confident young women behind her is priceless. But in reality, it was Dorothy who was fully behind them.

After the photo session, as Greg pulled out of the parking lot, one of the students walked over to thank Mrs. Iversen a final time. Dorothy reached out of the window and clasped the girl’s hand for what must have been a minute or more, wishing her success over and over. Philanthropy literally means “love of mankind.” Dorothy exuded it.

Over the next few years, Gulf Coast’s Kirstin Fulkerson arranged lunches each summer for Dorothy and as many of her scholarship recipients as could join them. Kirstin practically carried tiny Mrs. Iversen from her car to the restaurant and back the last time they met with her students. But Dorothy wouldn’t miss those lunches for anything.

In addition to her scholarship, Dorothy established another charitable fund at Gulf Coast, which became a permanent endowment through her estate plan. It provides annual support to a selection of nonprofit organizations she designated. To date, it has funded 85 grants totaling more than $760,000 to the worthy nonprofits she picked. It, too, is intended to continue growing while fulfilling her charitable wishes, in her and Arne’s names, forever.

Dorothy’s obituary called her “a generous giver of gifts,” a fitting description for her modest wholeheartedness. She had the good fortune to see her inheritance “do some good” during her lifetime. Our community has the better fortune of seeing her thoughtfully planned gifts do untold good in perpetuity. (We are also blessed that her trusted financial advisor, Peter Mason, introduced Dorothy to Gulf Coast in the first place.) When 23 graduating Lemon Bay seniors were recognized last Monday at the school’s awards night for earning the Iversen scholarship, the joy and pride to be seen on their faces were also gifts that Dorothy had given.

Dorothy Iversen was one of a kind, but the Dorothy and Arne Iversen Scholarship Fund is just one of more than 50 scholarship funds here at Gulf Coast that will award critical aid to local students for the next school year. Each reflects the particular interests and values of the donors who created them. All are shining examples of the power of endowed philanthropy to pay it forward in the most personal and communal ways imaginable.

Mark S. Pritchett is president and CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

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