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A Gift That Was a Winning Combination

Pierre Gehlen believed that education was the best cure for social injustice. A retired professor of Mechanical Engineering, he was especially interested in giving every child a chance to succeed in school so they could go on to college.  That passion led him to be involved with The Seattle Public Library Foundation in the years prior to his passing earlier this year.
In 2010, Pierre and his wife, Jackie, made a gift that allowed the Foundation to purchase laptop computers for each of the Library’s 11 Homework Help sites.  But both were convinced that the Library could do more to help students and gave a gift that created a plan for the future.

korrie miller and jackie gehlen

Korrie Miller and Jackie Gehlen

Last year Pierre worked with the Library, Foundation and the UW School of Education to find a graduate student to research ways public institutions could increase student achievement. Enter Korrie Miller, a graduate student getting her Master’s in Education Policy.   Pierre provided a scholarship for Korrie to study how the Library could create services and programs to boost academic success.
Korrie worked with Library staff for nine months.  At the end of that time she prepared a comprehensive report that will serve as the blueprint for new library services directed to help students reach their college and career goals.

“It was so great to see how my research helped provide information to the Library leadership and actually influence library policy and services,” Miller said. 

One of the projects Korrie worked on was College Goal Sunday.  The Library partnered with NELA (Northwest Education Loan Association) and the Seattle Public School District on three College Goal Sunday events designed to help college-bound students complete and submit their FAFSA forms, the paperwork necessary to apply for college financial aid.  The project was so successful that another series of College Goal Sundays will be held in January of 2013.

“Pierre was so excited about being able to advance the Library’s work with students,” said Jackie Gehlen, his wife. “He absolutely loved the Library.” 

It was a win-win-win for everyone.  Korrie was able to put her academic knowledge into practice and in June received her Master’s.  The Library now has a plan for serving college and career-bound students.  And Pierre had the satisfaction of knowing his gift made a real difference in the community.

This article was reprinted from The Seattle Public Library Foundation’s newsletter, The Next Chapter. More»

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