Two new endowments in CSU’s School of Education impact teacher education

Bethany Conniff (left) and Ross Atkinson (right) portrait photos
Recipients of the Barbara A. McWhorter Scholarship, Bethany Conniff, left, and Ross Atkinson, right.

Two new endowed funds created by Colorado State University alumni honor women educators who made outstanding contributions to CSU and the community. The donors have established the funds to support CSU’s School of Education in perpetuity: the Sallie M. George Future Educators Endowment and the Barbara A. McWhorter Scholarship. 

“We are most appreciative of the investments these donors have made to the School of Education, our programs, and our students,” said Susan Faircloth, director of the School of Education. “These investments will not only have life-changing impacts on the lives of our students, but on the schools and communities in which they live and work,” she said. 

Sallie M. George Future Educators Endowment 

The Sallie M. George Future Educators Endowment was established by CSU alumni Sok King Tng (B.S., wildlife biology, ’97) and Murali M. Annavaram (M.S., computer science, ’96) for the purpose of supporting initiatives and programs in the School of Education to prepare future educators, as well as strengthening partnerships with the Poudre School District. 

“The Sallie M. George Future Educators Endowment has already made a tangible impact on our School Leadership Institute,” said Ann Sebald, co-director of the Center for Educator Preparation in the School of Education. “The SLI offers mentoring for the first three years of CSU principal licensure program graduates. The endowment helped us sustain this program through the challenges of the pandemic, bolstering connections among new principals through an extremely difficult time in education leadership.”  

Tng and Annavaram established the endowment in memory of Sallie M. George, who hosted several international students and scholars and befriended many more who attended or did research at CSU. She provided a welcoming home to them for visits and holidays. George graduated from CSU in 1957 with a degree in physical education and then went on to work as a special education teacher at various schools in the Poudre School District. One of her proudest achievements during this period was her ability to integrate students with disabilities into the mainstream public school system.  

Outside of teaching, George served in the Peace Corps in Jamaica, and throughout her life traveled to a variety of fascinating places, including Antarctica, South America, Indonesia, Africa, Vietnam, and China. She was known for her enthusiastic slideshows presenting her travel adventures, which she would show at the public library. She passed away in 2005 after a long, courageous battle with cancer. 

The funds from the endowment will be used for various initiatives such as co-teaching partnerships to bring CSU faculty and students into PSD classrooms for assessments, observation, and sharing of teaching and school leadership strategies. The endowment will also support student recruiting efforts to bring more diverse teacher and principal candidates to CSU, as well as professional development for faculty and program expansion.  

“The shortage of principals throughout the state of Colorado is real,” said Sebald. “One way to address this shortage is to support those who are new to the role in persisting as principals. Graduates of the School Leadership Institute can apply to become Fellows of the institute thus providing sustainable support for the program. We are grateful that those who remember Sallie George have invested in the future success of educators and school leaders.” 

Barbara A. McWhorter Scholarship 

The Barbara A. McWhorter Scholarship was established to provide scholarships for graduate students in the School of Education who show financial need. David B. McWhorter (’66, ’71) established the endowment to honor his wife Barbara, who was a pillar of support for those seeking higher education.  

After supporting her husband in his pursuit of his master’s and Ph.D. in agricultural engineering from CSU, Barbara embarked on her own journey by enrolling in a bachelor’s program at CSU. Following graduation with her B.A. in art with teacher licensure in 1979, Barbara taught elementary school for several years, which she enjoyed so much she claimed she would do it for free. She was beckoned by the irresistible challenges and opportunities offered by a postgraduate education, however, and left teaching to complete two graduate degrees at CSU: an M.Ed. in 1989 and a Ph.D. in counselor education in 1993.  

Barbara stayed at CSU following her degrees when she joined the faculty in the School of Education. She was heavily involved with Project Promise, a program for professionals with degrees who want to re-train and become teachers. Her engagement with Project Promise was significant and long-lasting. In 2002 she retired as the director of the program. 

Several members of the McWhorter family have strong ties to CSU; outside of Barbara’s three degrees from Colorado State her husband Dave was on faculty in the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering, and her son earned his bachelor’s degree from CSU. 

This scholarship fund will continue Barbara’s legacy and have a profound impact on future educators, especially those who have professional experience and are retraining to become a teacher.  

Student recipients

For the 2021-2022 academic year, the Barbara A. McWhorter Scholarship was awarded to Ross Atkinson, a combat veteran and doctoral student pursuing a Ph.D. in the School of Education. Originally from Las Vegas, Nevada, Atkinson spent many months in the U.S. Army training in different towns in Georgia and Arizona, before serving in Northeastern Afghanistan. He finished his time in the military in Fort Bliss, Texas, before earning his degree in English Education and teacher licensure in Las Vegas and a master’s degree in English from CSU in 2017.  

Ross Atkinson portrait
Ross Atkinson portrait

Atkinson hopes to research the reintegration process for veterans re-entering civilian life, promoting a healthy transition through programs that would have a direct impact on veterans. With his long-term goal to create an organization or program that would have the capability to better facilitate the process of veteran reintegration to local communities, he co-founded the CSU Veterans Writing Workshop. The workshop published a collection in 2020, titled Charlie Mike. Atkinson describes the workshop’s culminating journal as, “the work and words of our brave participants who have written honestly and brilliantly about their experiences of military life.” 

The 2022-2023 recipient is Bethany Conniff, who is pursuing a master’s degree in music education paired with teacher licensure. Originally from Illinois, Conniff’s educational journey includes a B.A. in vocal performance and musicology with a minor in world religions from University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Her goals include teaching middle or high school choir and pursuit of a Ph.D. in Music Education for future university teaching.  

Gratitude for generosity

Conniff notes that the Barbara A. McWhorter Scholarship allows her to step up as a leader in student organizations and build on her professional teaching skills. “[This scholarship] affords me the opportunity to exercise my leadership skills for my music community at CSU, as well as dedicate even more time to my preparation and teaching my students in my studio,” she said. 

Bethany Conniff portrait
Bethany Conniff portrait

“My family and I would like to offer our thanks for the opportunity to receive this scholarship,” said Atkinson. “I certainly would not be able to finish the final stretch of what has been over a 10-year journey toward my Ph.D. without this support. I took my first class in Afghanistan in 2010 with the help of the military, and I will take one of my final classes here at CSU with your help. Thank you!”  

The School of Education is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.