Xyanthe Neider
Xyanthe Neider
Mary Crowell
Mary Crowell

Mary Crowell and Xyan Neider are building a better future for their families and themselves through the degrees they pursue at Washington State University.

As single moms, Mary and Xyan are immersed in busy lives and hectic schedules. They must strike the right balance between responsibilities at home and on campus. And they must find the appropriate financial balance to avoid burdensome debt while paying for their WSU education.

The Debbie T. Killinger Scholarship, administered through the College of Education, provided some of the needed balance in their lives and turned their financial stress into financial security, say Mary and Xyan.

Xyan loves learning and dreams of teaching at the college level. Mary is firmly committed to social justice and wants to immerse herself in research so she can better advocate for marginalized groups. “Receiving this scholarship is an honor that has made a huge difference for me,” Mary says.

Funded by Seattle philanthropist Debbie Killinger, the scholarship is awarded to single mothers and first generation students who excel in the classroom and are involved in their communities.

Debbie has been a WSU President’s Associate since 2003 and became a Benefactor of WSU in 2008. Although she does not hold a college degree, she firmly believes in the transformational impact of higher education. She was introduced to WSU by former president Sam Smith who connected her with the late College of Education Dean Judy Nichols Mitchell. They formed a friendship firmly rooted in Debbie’s engagement as a donor to WSU.

To date, more than 60 students have benefitted from the scholarship since its inception ten years ago. The students inspire her continuing support, Debbie says, because their stories are individual, moving, appreciative, and unique. A personal anecdote related by Dean Mitchell also resonates within Debbie.

“A kind and caring educator can make a difference in so many lives, and it only takes one person to believe in you,” says Debbie. “Judy Mitchell told me that it was one person who made a difference in her life, by convincing her that she could go further than she believed she could. A good saying is: ‘If you think you are too small to make a difference, you have never been in bed with a mosquito!’”

Mary is nurturing her passion for social justice by pursuing a doctorate in Cultural Studies and Social Thought in Education. She balances her role as a mother of a newborn son and 6-year-old daughter while serving as a graduate assistant in the McNair Scholars program at WSU.

Inspired by the colleagues who found their passion in higher education, Xyan earned a doctorate in higher education administration in 2010. She is balancing her duties as a clinical faculty member in the College of Education with the activities of her 14-year-old daughter and busy life of her 22-year-old son.

As Mary and Xyan envision their future, they are grateful for the scholarship that changed their lives. “I’m doing what I love right now,” Xyan says. “I’m pleased to be at WSU, working in a setting in which I am exceedingly familiar. And who knows what the future will bring? I don’t; I just know that I am prepared for the next opportunity whenever it may arise.”