CORVALLIS, Ore. - Just what can a gift of $500 really accomplish?

At Oregon State University, participants in the Women's Giving Circle not only know how their gifts make an impact - they get to decide how their dollars are spent through an annual voting process. Over the years, these gifts have added up in a big way.

In May, the group awarded more than $63,000 to seven university programs and surpassed the $500,000 milestone in total funds awarded since its founding in 2003.

Each year, members of the Women's Giving Circle make individual gifts of $500 or more to the group and then invite program leaders at Oregon State University to apply for the pooled funds.

"The Women's Giving Circle is a grassroots giving community," said Lake Oswego resident Ruth Beyer, a 1977 OSU graduate who serves as co-chair of the OSU Women's Giving Circle. "The program allows donors to be very involved in selecting how their philanthropic dollars are spent while witnessing directly how much every gift to the university matters."

During its 10-year history, the Women's Giving Circle has grown to more than 100 members and has supported more than 60 OSU programs, including:

  • A support program for women students older than 25;
  • An orientation program for female engineering students that was so successful, it is now offered annually to all new students;
  • OSU's Mealbux program, which helps students in poverty make ends meet by providing them with meals on campus;
  • Commissions of an original choral composition performed May 12 at the Lincoln Center in New York and the West Coast premiere of a play about Gerty Cori, the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine;
  • Production of a second exercise DVD for use in elementary school classrooms (watch the trailer for the first DVD, called "Brain Breaks").

In addition, the group made a five-year, $125,000 commitment to help fund the construction of OSU's Student Success Center, a facility which opened in September 2012 to provide services to help all Oregon State students achieve their full potential - student-athletes as well as the general student population.

"Oregon State is fortunate have to strong, visionary women like Ruth Beyer and Pat Reser in philanthropic leadership roles throughout the university, as well as in the Women's Giving Circle," said J. Michael Goodwin, president & CEO of the OSU Foundation. "They are powerful role models and contribute enormously through their service as well as their gifts."

Beyer was appointed chair of the OSU Foundation's Board of Trustees, effective July 1. Reser, a 1960 graduate who lives in Beaverton, Ore., serves as co-chair for The Campaign for OSU and is a member of the Women's Giving Circle.

"Women have always understood that the greatest impact can be made when working together," Beyer said. "We find that participants in the Women's Giving Circle really want to get the most out of their charitable dollars to benefit the university we love."

The grants awarded by the OSU Women's Giving Circle are from gifts that are part of The Campaign for OSU, the university's first comprehensive fundraising campaign. Guided by OSU's strategic plan, the campaign has raised more than $925 million of its $1 billion goal to provide opportunities for students, strengthen Oregon communities, and conduct research that changes the world.

To learn more about the Women's Giving Circle, and to see a full list of programs supported, visit:

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Michelle Williams, 541-737-6126