Mathers family gift supports students in the elementary teacher pathway

Alumna Carolee Mathers (B.A. '65) (standing, left-side) engaging students in her classroom in the late 1990s.

Carolee Mathers knew that she wanted to be an elementary school teacher since she was in grade school herself. After graduating from the UW College of Education with her bachelor of arts degree in 1965, she began a 35-year career with the Mercer Island School District, teaching second and third grade. In and out of the classroom, Carolee always had a positive outlook and an excellent sense of humor, which helped her create a supportive learning environment for her students. Carolee’s outlook also helped her manage the challenges of her long-term condition, inclusion body myositis (IBM), and lift up the people she loved. While Carolee passed away in late 2019, the Carolee S. Mathers Endowment continues to support students who exemplify Carolee’s love of teaching and who wish to have the same lasting impact on their colleagues and students.

“Carolee shied away from recognition,” her husband Tom Mathers said when he reflected on what inspired him and Carolee to establish this endowment. “But she said it would be okay to start this fellowship to support and recognize future teachers. We wanted all educators to be recognized for their work and their passion for students.”

“She was a great teacher who could reach every student,” said her former colleague, Mercer Island teacher Laurel Baker. Baker found a mentor in Carolee during her first year of teaching. “She ignited a love of teaching for me. The first year of teaching can feel overwhelming, but it never felt that way for me because of Carolee.”

The Mathers established the Carolee S. Mathers Endowed Fellowship in 2013 to honor Carolee's teaching career. Alumna Angela Klaassen (MiT ‘15), now a third grade Spanish immersion teacher at McDonald International School, was the fellowship’s first recipient. For Klaassen, Tom and Carolee’s gift was a powerful reminder that the work she does is valued.

“Receiving this scholarship was an honor,” Klaassen said. “Although sometimes it seems like educators are undervalued, it is the commitment and generosity of donors like Carolee that are able to counter that narrative.”

In addition to establishing this fellowship, Carolee and Tom began supporting HuskyADAPT after her diagnosis, a UW organization which adapts toys for children with disabilities and designs other accessibility solutions.

Like Carolee, who constantly ran into former students that were delighted to see her, Klaassen believes building a strong relationship with each student is the key to providing them with the education they deserve. She credits the College of Education with giving her the skills to build these relationships ― and she is grateful that Carolee’s fellowship will help other passionate educators access this crucial training.

“The College of Education provided me with the tools that have helped me build strong foundational relationships with my students in order to reach them where they are and provide them what they need as their teacher,” Klaassen said. “By investing in future educators, Tom and Carolee ensure that people who are dedicated to education, no matter their circumstances, have access to what is offered by the College of Education.”

You can support the Carolee S. Mathers Endowed Fellowship here or connect with the College of Education’s Advancement team to discover how to establish a new fellowship.


Charleen Wilcox, Director for Marketing & Communications,