Dale and Lavonne "Bonnie" McFarlin were not alumni of St. Ambrose University. But when they sold their farm in western Iowa and moved to Davenport in the 1970s, it became their community.
The McFarlins died — Dale in 1997 and Bonnie in 2018 — but their legacy and affinity for St. Ambrose will live on in their $1.38 million estate gift. It is the largest single scholarship gift in the university's history.
"Bonnie thought of St. Ambrose as her family, and wherever she was, she said she was an Iowan farm girl," said Sr. Joan Lescinski, university president.
The Dale and LaVonne "Bonnie" McFarlin Scholars Program will assist four admitted first-year or transfer students from Iowa with a $4,000 award. The award will renew annually through a student's graduation or for up to four years. Preference will be given to students from Davenport or rural Iowa.
The couple, who did not have children of their own, gifted farm property to the school in exchange for a charitable gift annuity. Starting in 2013, Bonnie McFarlin established six more charitable gift annuities.
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"St. Ambrose just spoke to her. Providing an education to others just spoke to her," said Diane Puthoff, an attorney who helped McFarlin with her gifts to the university.
After a student from Iowa is fully admitted to St. Ambrose, they are eligible to apply for the scholarship if they have a 3.0 GPA, an ACT score of 20 or an SAT score of 1040. Leadership, service and financial need will also be considered, as well as the quality of an interview with a college administrator.
"This will make a tremendous impact on the accessibility of a St. Ambrose education," Lescinski said.
Applications for students starting in fall 2020 are being accepted through Feb. 15.