Ashland resident Philip Curtis has given the Southern Oregon University Foundation $180,000 to establish the Norma S. and Ethel M. Curtis Memorial Scholarship Fund, named in honor of his late wife and mother.

Ashland resident Philip Curtis has given the Southern Oregon University Foundation $180,000 to establish the Norma S. and Ethel M. Curtis Memorial Scholarship Fund, named in honor of his late wife and mother.

The scholarship provides all tuition, fees and a $1,000 book allowance for women graduate students with a demonstrated interest in the sciences at SOU. At least one scholarship will be awarded annually beginning next year. Curtis has indicated additional gifts may be made in the future.

"This scholarship will make an incredible difference," says SOU President Mary Cullinan. "Our students so often have tremendous talent and energy, but they lack the resources needed to attain a university degree. This gift has the power to transform lives."

Curtis said he and his late wife Norma discussed helping women students before she passed away last May at age 81.

"Norma felt women should have more options than traditional female professions like teaching," Curtis said. "Norma had a tough time pursuing her graduate degree while raising two children." She eventually received her master's degree from the University of Southern California, taught elementary school and became a reading specialist.

"To honor his wife, Mr. Curtis has made a significant impact on the lives of many students with this scholarship and we're truly grateful," says Sylvia Kelley, vice president for development and executive director of the SOU Foundation. "There's a tremendous need in this region to support students at SOU who may not otherwise be able to obtain a college education."

After they moved to Ashland in 1984, Norma Curtis became active in the local chapter of the American Association of University Women. She helped establish a local mentoring program for women who were returning to college after an absence or a divorce or were challenged by having to work or raise young children while pursuing a degree. She also funded a scholarship through AAUW.

"She was very interested in women's rights issues," Curtis said. "When teachers first began to organize unions in Southern California, Norma carried placards and walked picket lines."

Her other strong interests included nature, traveling, collecting and the home she and her husband built just outside Ashland. Norma Curtis also volunteered at the Tudor Guild gift shop at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

The Curtis scholarship is available to women born in Oregon who are full-time graduate students at SOU majoring in mathematics or science.

Applications are now being accepted for the academic year 2009-10 through the SOU Financial Aid Office.