A Shared Legacy
Butler-Serenbetz Family Scholarship honors parents’ commitment to education
William and Violet Butler were born in the cornhusker state of Nebraska, met while in college together at Northwestern University and raised their children in Ohio. Warren and Thelma Serenbetz hail from the Big Apple; they grew up in Queens, N.Y., and have remained in the New York City area all their lives. The Butlers have two daughters; the Serenbetz four sons.
When the youngest Butler daughter, Jean, and the third Serenbetz son, Stuart, married and started a family of their own, the couples’ lives became entwined, and their first shared legacy was begun. When Jean and Stuart established the Butler-Serenbetz Family Scholarship at Wake Forest University recently, the couples’ second legacy was born – one that honors the steadfast commitment to education that has characterized each of their lives.
“My parents were first generation college students,” says Stuart Serenbetz. “They always stressed the value of education; they drilled it into me that education is the most important thing. All four of us went to college. My parents made sacrifices so we could go, and they had high expectations.”
“My parents did the same with my sister and me,” Jean Butler Serenbetz (’76) adds. “There were no limits on which schools we could look at. They wanted us to go to the best school for us, regardless of cost or location. They made it a priority to save for our education.”
The two couples’ dedication to education didn’t end with their children; they have remained highly involved with their grandchildren, always asking to see report cards and applauding achievement. “They are instilling the same love and respect for education in our children that they instilled in us,” Stuart says.
Results have been strong. Grandson Tucker is a graduate of Yale University, while Hunter is a junior at his father’s alma mater, Washington and Lee University. Granddaughter Skyler, currently a high school senior, has been accepted early decision at Wake Forest and will be a freshman in the fall of 2009. Both Jean and Stuart earned MBAs from Dartmouth’s Amos Tuck School; Stuart owns and operates Stonebridge Development, a commercial real estate development company in Stamford, Conn.
When Jean and Stuart considered methods of honoring their parents, they opted for a scholarship that would give bright students the opportunity to attend a university like Wake Forest – to have choices they might not otherwise have. The scholarship is awarded to undergraduates on the basis of financial need, strength of character and academic promise. Preference is given to those who are in their family’s first generation to attend a four-year liberal arts institution and who are from Ohio or the Northeastern United States. The first recipient was selected for fall 2008.
“I know of too many situations in which kids are taking on so much college debt that they have to make career choices based on paying it down,” Stuart explains. “We want to see that kids are able to study what they desire, that their initiative and motivation are not lost because of the burden of cost.”
Jean and Stuart are impressed with how Wake Forest manages and chooses to use its resources. They also believe in the university’s emphasis on educating the whole person to give back to society. “A lot of schools only talk about this,” Jean explains. “I believe Wake Forest actually lives the pro humanitate mission.”
The Butlers and Serenbetz fully approve of the method chosen to honor them. According to Jean and Stuart, their parents feel “touched, honored and blessed” by their new shared legacy at Wake Forest.