Blind luck brought Lesa Burton-Cornell (’82 Comm.) to Washington State University, the place where students find enriching life experiences along with a quality education.

Something drew her to Pullman sight-unseen, recalls Lesa, who grew up in San Diego. Her brother attended a local college, her dad Cornell, and her mom UC-Berkeley. She now considers it a blessing to have followed her heart to the rolling hills of the Palouse.

Fond memories come flooding back when Lesa reflects on her WSU experience. “I’m so grateful and lucky that I was able to attend our ‘University on a Hill,’” she says. As a President’s Associate, she wants to make sure that today’s students, as well as all future WSU Cougars, get the most from their educational journeys.

“I believe that any gift—whether small or large—helps to ensure the continuing excellence of academics and student life at WSU,” Lesa says. “My time at WSU was so much more than classroom lectures. I was involved in living groups, clubs, and organizations. I was pretty social and quite engaged with student life.”

Her daughter, Julia, is now a student at WSU and is following a path that runs almost parallel to the memories that intensify Lesa’s commitment to WSU.

“She is learning the many opportunities that life in Pullman brings,” Lesa says. “Something that’s really cool about Pullman—she can be seeing a sunset from the top of the Holland-Terrell Library, or jogging past the cows on Animal Sciences Road, or waiting in line at The Coug, and I could close my eyes and that would have been me 30 years ago. The campus may be more grown up now but the unique and unparalleled campus life our students enjoy hasn’t changed one bit.”

To help strengthen existing programs and create new opportunities to benefit students, Lesa recently joined the committee that oversees the WSU Parents Program Fund. The program exists because a student’s experience is shaped by so much more than the tuition paid each year.

“There are over 350 student groups at WSU and as enrollment continues to grow and becomes more diverse, these organizations keep our students engaged in campus life. Whether it be programs like ‘Alive!’ or CougFest, or an organization which celebrates a culture, a hobby or an academic interest, all are important as they link our students to the university and to each other,” she says.

For Lesa and Julia, their mother-daughter bond extends past a shared passion for Cougar football. They share the WSU experiences that forge lasting memories and a lifetime of success.