Topeka Washburn University has received a bequest of $2.2 million from a woman who had no known connection to the school.
"This gift was a complete surprise to us," Lee Benson, interim president of Washburn's Endowment Assn., said of the gift from the estate of Zola Desmond. "Even though we did not know Zola during her lifetime, this gift speaks of her belief in what Washburn is trying to accomplish."
Desmond, a widow who died in July at 85, had moved 17 years ago to Topeka from Denver. Her bequest, second-largest ever given to Washburn, establishes scholarships for underprivileged and deserving Washburn students.
Lindy Ericson, vice president and trust officer for Commerce Bank and Trust, said Desmond years ago chose Washburn as the chief beneficiary of her estate. Although she never attended college, she valued education and wanted to help students, Ericson said.
Desmond was born in Amoret, Mo. Her husband was in the military, and they lived in a number of U.S. cities before retiring in Denver.