“You need to give back to what gave to you.” This is the attitude that Jim Oliver (’70 Comm.) has lived by and together, with his wife, Cathy (Hartoon) is sharing with WSU through their 36 years of giving.

Grateful for their rewarding and life-changing experiences at WSU—including meeting in the marching band 45 years ago—Jim and Cathy (’71 Ed.) are making sure that the University will continue to provide quality education and life-enriching experiences for students in today’s tough economy.
Oliver-Jim-CathyTheir philanthropic spirit is helping WSU fill the gaps where funds are needed or unavailable, such as with their recent support of the Access Center (formerly known as the Disability Resource Center).

As enrollment grows at all WSU campuses, so does the number of students whose disabilities or conditions limit or impede their ability to succeed in traditional classroom settings. State and federal mandates require specific accommodations for these students to ensure equal access to higher education. The Access Center is fulfilling many of these requirements, in and outside the WSU classroom.

Jim and Cathy were impressed by the students receiving help at the center and noticed how closely its mission aligns with the legacy of Jim’s father, Elbert “Bert” Oliver (’29 Econ.), who enjoyed a 50-year career with the Washington State Department of Vocational Rehabilitation and retired as the agency’s director. Bert’s focus was to help people achieve their potential by matching their vocational interests with their disabilities.

That focus provided the foundation for the Elbert “Bert” Manford Oliver Endowment, which Jim and Cathy established as a permanent funding resource for Access Center operations.

In addition to serving as a beacon to students with disabilities, the Access Center is especially busy providing testing accommodations and on-campus transportation for students during final exams.

“Almost all students who seek services through the Access Center benefit from testing accommodations,” says Meredyth Goodwin the center’s director. “Over 500 students have authorized testing accommodations each semester; each student takes, on average, five courses each semester, and each course, on average, has three to five exams during the semester. The Proctoring Center proctors well over 5,000 exams each year.”

This year, through the Elbert “Bert” Manford Oliver Endowment, Jim and Cathy has provided additional peace-of-mind for both the students and the front desk staff by helping to purchase 24 storage lockers for the Pullman center.

“The lockers made all the difference with regard to the staff keeping track of students’ belongings,” Goodwin says. “I know students felt more secure that their belongings were in a locked cubby rather than out in the front office during their exam. No doubt this helped with students’ abilities to concentrate.”

Services and accommodations provided through the Access Center empower students, as well as ensure a smooth transition to college and a successful educational journey at WSU. And for Jim and Cathy, the ultimate impact they are making far outweighs the dollars being directed to their passion. Giving to WSU magnifies the confidence in programs that flourish through their support and, as Jim and Cathy see it, is their duty as WSU alumni. They urge their fellow Cougars to do the same.

“The University is deserving of alumni support during these tough economic times,” says Jim.

“Look into your heart and ask yourself what Washington State has meant to you and then do the right thing.”