Winter 2016

|  by Alice Rhein

Eva L. Otto Scholarship encourages returning students to pursue their passion

Tim Otto
An endowment pledge by Tim Otto (left) ensures that his original gift of a scholarship honoring his mother, Eva, CAS ’03, (second from right) remains in perpetuity.

Thanks to Tim Otto’s recent $25,000 endowment pledge, his original graduation gift of a scholarship honoring his mother, Eva Otto, CAS ’03, remains in perpetuity.

The Eva L. Otto Endowment for Undergraduate Student Scholarships is awarded annually to students pursuing a degree in English who return to school after a long absence.

Eva Otto graduated with a double major in English and Art History and returned to college after raising Tim and his sister, Judy. “I received my degree in May and my first Social Security check in September,” she said.

It was Tim’s idea to award the scholarship to an older student or a student returning to college after having been away for a while. “I wanted to celebrate her graduation, and it came as a way to honor her,” he said.

Many scholarship recipients have sent Tim thank you notes with stories of their ability to fulfill a lifelong dream ― stories that very much resemble his mother’s.

The award was a welcome surprise for Melissa Devereaux, scheduled to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English this spring.

“I don’t know if I can express how grateful I am to the Otto family for this,” she said. “It’s been challenging for me to finish my degree, and this helped pay for my classes and books this last semester.”

Devereaux, nominated for the scholarship by Associate Professor of English Annette Gilson, is exactly the student the Ottos intended for their gift. A full-time employee for the county clerk for the past 20 years, Devereaux wanted a degree that would make her more marketable for a potential second career.

“People will sometimes ask me, ‘Why an English degree?’ she said. “The reason? I communicate with people all day. Being able to communicate well is important ― I went back to college to improve my skills.

“Being nominated by and receiving this scholarship is an amazing way to end my journey.”

As Otto’s endowment fulfills students’ dreams of attaining a college degree, she continues her own journey as a lifelong student.

Several days a week, Otto volunteers as a researcher and editor at the Detroit Institute of Arts. She catalogs hundreds of photos of Diego Rivera for the Photography Department. Otto also reads articles on art in 19th century newspapers in order to edit and update descriptions for various postings of the DIA’s acquired works.

By Alice Rhein, a freelance writer from Huntington Woods, Michigan.