It’s spring, so Stanford’s Mary Morrison must be giving away millions

Mary Morrison, director of funds management in the Office of Financial Aid, gives away millions of dollars in financial aid to Stanford students every spring. It’s a job she has been enjoying for 18 years.

Morrison, who also teaches a course on financial literacy for Stanford students, talks about Stanford’s endowed scholarship funds, some of the more interesting restrictions donors have placed on them and the financial knowledge of Stanford students.

You oversee the distribution at Stanford of all undergraduate institutional, federal and state undergraduate financial aid funds. Exactly how much is that?

Last year, it was $115,490,000. This year, we think it will be $118 million. That’s just Stanford’s portion. The government’s money is about $11 million.

How many scholarship funds do you administer, and how are they invested?

There are about 1,100. They are part of the endowment pool that is invested by the Stanford Management Company.

Few places have this many scholarship funds, so there aren’t many people who have my job anywhere. Our largest fund, incidentally, generates more than $4 million annually in income. It was from R. H. Anderson, who never went to Stanford. He found oil in Texas. He explained that if his partner hadn’t gone to Stanford and learned how to find oil, he wouldn’t have been successful.

Some of the scholarship funds have specific requirements. What are some of the most interesting ones?

First, all of our scholarships are for people with need. Maybe half have an additional requirement, and we have some fun ones. I like the scholarship for a woman who is “serious, but not too serious.” I get to decide who that is. We have a couple that must go to people who have never been arrested. Of course, we don’t know that, really.

One of the sweetest is the Japanese Student Association Scholarship. That comes from Japanese students who, during World War II, were in internment camps. When they left campus in 1942, they gave everything from their club to a friend who wasn’t Japanese. Forty-five years later, Stanford had a ceremony to give those students their diplomas. During this reunion, they were sitting around wondering whatever happened to their stuff. Turns out it was still in this guy’s garage. They found the club bankbook, and the account had accumulated 45 years of interest. They donated it for an endowed scholarship for students of Japanese descent.

We also got a will recently with a first preference for people from Pocatello, Idaho, and Medford, Ore., who are clean, neat and well groomed. We make sure that it goes to people from Idaho and Oregon, even if we can’t quite be sure the students completely satisfy the donor’s first preference.

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