Converse College announced February 2nd a $500,000 gift from the Wayland H. Cato, Jr. Foundation, Inc. in recognition of Charleston, S.C. residents Marion Cato, who is a Converse alumna, and her husband Wayland. The gift will establish the Marion and Wayland H. Cato, Jr. Endowed Scholarship Fund at Converse, and will provide annual assistance to Converse students for tuition and fees, books and supplies.
The scholarship will be awarded to undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need and have experience working both for pay and as volunteers. The first scholarship recipient will be announced at the beginning of the 2009-2010 academic year.
“Wayland and I are strong believers in higher education and avid champions of Converse College,” said Marion. “As a graduate of Converse, I am proud of my Converse experience and the many opportunities it has provided me. Today, Converse women are answering society’s call for strong leadership in the arenas of political science, economics, music, art, history, education, government and beyond. Our gift is an expression of the tremendous faith that we have in President Betsy Fleming and her dynamic leadership with an excellent administration. I am delighted to help ensure that young women have the opportunity to come to Converse, expand their potential and turn their highest dreams into reality.”
Marion and Wayland Cato are residents of Charleston, South Carolina. Marion earned her bachelor of arts in history from Converse in 1965. Wayland is a 1944 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and co-founded with his father in 1946 The Cato Corporation—a women’s apparel retailer with more than 1,200 stores in 31 states.
In accepting the gift, Converse President Betsy Fleming said, "Marion and Wayland have spent their lives investing in others. We greatly appreciate their commitment to advancing women. Their scholarship supports those young women who have drive and ambition and who aren’t afraid to work harder in order to fulfill their dreams for personal and professional success.”
Early Monday evening, members of the Converse College community celebrated the Catos by dedicating the terrace of the long-standing Converse log cabin as The Marion and Wayland H. Cato, Jr. Terrace. The terrace overlooks the outdoor amphitheatre on the scenic Converse campus.
The scholarship is the second established by the Catos. In 2001, the couple established the Marion Rivers Cato Scholarship. Current Converse freshman Hilary Koss of Richmond, Virginia, a politics and religion double major who chose Converse over other institutions including William and Mary and Sarah Lawrence, is a recipient of the scholarship.
“After comparing notes between what the students at the other colleges were saying, Converse seemed to make the most sense,” said Koss. “There’s such a community vibe at Converse. It’s easy to quickly bond as a family and speak to your professors at random hours of the day and evening. Converse offers me the chance to have a true liberal arts education where a class may begin with a lecture, break down into a discussion and then end in a conversation an hour after class is over I wouldn’t change going to Converse for a free ride through an Ivy League!”