New Scholarship Honors Family With Six Pitt Degrees

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In 1969, when Janice Purdum Sturdevant (EDUC ’45G) opened her preschool in the rural Pennsylvania town of Franklin, it was not immediately well received.

“When I started the school people said ‘no,’ because they thought parents were just trying to get rid of their children early and it was frowned upon,” Janice said recently as she sat in her daughter’s home.

Despite the resistance, her school steadily grew over the years she ran it. “Now going to preschool is accepted and even routine,” she said.

Janice did not start as a preschool teacher and administrator. Her first job was as a high school teacher. While teaching, Janice began taking graduate classes at Pitt. She and a friend commuted by trolley from the suburbs to Oakland for evening classes. But her love of Pitt began long before that.

“Pitt has always been a good, happy part of my life.”

Her father, Ray Purdum, earned a dental degree from Pitt in 1933 and her uncle, James Garroway, graduated from Pitt in that same year with an engineering degree.

“Pitt has always been a good, happy part of my life,” Janice, now in her 90s, said thinking back to her childhood. “We always went to the games, lectures, theater, and everything else connected with Pitt.”

Janice’s brother, James William Purdum (CGS ‘67), husband Lyn E Sturdevant Jr. (ENG ‘49), and daughter Lucille Garroway Sturdevant (EDUC ‘79G) also have degrees from Pitt.

In an effort to honor her family legacy and further support the growth of early childhood education, last year Janice created the Sturdevant Family Endowed Scholarship Fund in Early Childhood Education with a one-time gift. Michael Haas, director of development for the University of Pittsburgh School of Education, said the expectation is that the school will award the scholarship to its first recipient in 2019.

“When I went to Pitt, I was eager for help and I got it,” Janice said. “I feel that I could never give back what I have been given . . . but this is a way to reach out and say ‘thank you.’”

There are currently about 200 undergraduate and 1,000 graduate students enrolled at Pitt’s School of Education. Most of those graduate students are also full-time teachers.

Janice Purdum Sturdevant (EDUC ’45G) and her daughter Lucille Garroway Sturdevant (EDUC ‘79G), who both have fond memories of their days at Pitt.
Janice Purdum Sturdevant (EDUC ’45G) and her daughter Lucille Garroway Sturdevant (EDUC ‘79G), who both have fond memories of their days at Pitt.

“Like Janice did in the 1940s, there are many dedicated teachers who are working full-time jobs while also working to earn their master’s degree,” said School of Education Dean Valerie Kinloch. “They want to improve their skills, but some just cannot afford to do so without some help. Receiving a scholarship means so much to them and to the future of our education system.”

When Janice told her children what she was planning to do, it did not surprise them. “Mom’s life has always been about giving,” Lucille said. “Her mantra is ‘people are the most important and you need to leave a person feeling happier.’”

When asked why she chose to support Pitt with her philanthropy rather than any of the other organizations she has been part of over the years, Janice had a clear answer. “Pitt will be here. It’s strong. From the time I was in kindergarten, I knew Pitt was there, and I feel that 100 years from now Pitt will still be here and will still be helping.”