William Paterson University recently received a transformative gift of nearly $1 million from the estate of Carol Mathews LeBeau ’45 to support students who are studying to be special education teachers. LeBeau had loyally donated between $5 and $7 to the institution annually starting immediately after she graduated and continuing until she died.
The gift from LeBeau’s estate will be used to establish a fund, treated like an endowment, which means it will live on in perpetuity to provide a scholarship distribution to WP students every year, according to Pamela Ferguson, vice president for institutional advancement and president of the William Paterson University Foundation.
Both undergraduate and graduate students can apply for the newly created Carol Mathews LeBeau Special Education Scholarship.
“Her consistently remembering the institution, every single year, is a priceless testament of her pride and philanthropy,” Ferguson says. “While she was not able to make a transformative gift in her lifetime, Carol remembered us with great generosity in her estate plans, and for that, we are very grateful.”
LeBeau’s contributions made her a member of the Heritage Society on campus, which recognizes individuals who have given to the University for 20 years or more no matter the giving level.
LeBeau, who had moved to Belleair Bluffs, Florida from New Jersey, died Dec. 16, 2003. She wrote her will in 1972, with instructions that her estate go first to her daughter Juliet, who had special needs, and that 35 percent of whatever was left at the time of Juliet’s death was to go to her alma mater. Juliet, who was most recently living in a home for disabled people in Florida, passed away at age 70 in June.
LeBeau’s husband Eugene passed away years before, at age 55, in October 1963.
A graduate of Ridgewood High School in Ridgewood, New Jersey, LeBeau moved to nearby Wyckoff when she was married and worked with a New York business firm, where she was an assistant buyer to a large merchandizing syndicate, before going to college.
She was a member of the College Art Club, Yearbook staff, and FTA (Future Teachers of America) at William Paterson University, which was known as Paterson State College when she was a student. LeBeau was also a member of Kappa Delta Pi National Honor Society in Education and was elected to Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities by a faculty committee.
Paterson State College conferred 49 degrees in LeBeau’s Commencement ceremony, held in a campus auditorium on May 25, 1945, where she received a bachelor of science degree in elementary education. Following Commencement, she was an elementary school teacher and confidential secretary to a philanthropist.
In 1969, LeBeau supported a fund to honor Paterson State College president emeritus Dr. Clair S. Wightman, per an article printed by The News, of Paterson. A committee of alumni and community citizens were fundraising to construct a gateway at the entrance of the campus athletic field as well as an electric scoreboard, both which would identify Wightman Field by name as it lacked any such display, even though the State Board of Education named it Wightman Field in 1954.
Her name, too, will live on—with each Carol Mathews LeBeau scholarship awarded, and each student, and generations of students, it will help to become special education teachers.
—Thanks to Satasha Williams, access services librarian at the David and Lorraine Cheng Library, for her research assistance on this piece.
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