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A Doylestown hairdresser’s trust fund offers scholarships and interest-free loans to Bucks County students.

Verna McClary Butterer was an astute business woman and a saver – she put her money in municipal bonds to avoid the “death taxes.” Along the way, she did have three husbands and some inheritances. She married “up” as they say.

When she died, in 1991, she directed her money into a scholarship fund. Since the first funding, for 1993-94, the M. Verna Butterer Trust has given $7 million away to Bucks residents. Any post-secondary school education is eligible for funding, not just college but also training for crafts or technical skills, and not just for college undergraduate degrees but all the way through graduate and professional schools.

Awards of up to $16,000 a year are given to each eligible student, with the average around $7,000. The awards, half scholarship, half loan, are made through a three-person board of trustees and Soroptimist International of Bucks County, part of a global volunteer organization that provides women and girls with access to training they need to achieve economic empowerment. The Butterer scholarship is not limited to women and girls, however.

Verna was a charter member of the Bucks County Soroptimist club, which was formed in 1938. She became president in 1943 and served as regional treasurer from 1970 to 1974. In 1987 she was appointed regional historian, a position she occupied until her death.

According to the trust website, “Many people think of women’s liberation and women’s achievements as only recent events. Vema’s life and achievements belie that notion. A ‘self-made’ business woman, Verna reached out to women through Soroptimism, sharing the learning and growth of Soroptimist membership and helping those in need.”

Elissa Kierkegaard worked for the law firm that set up Verna’s will and she was a longtime member of the board of trustees, that handled the estate. Today’s trustees are Suzanne Barnhurst of Upper Black Eddy, an adjunct professor at Desales University and Bucks County Community College; Miriam Reimel of Langhorne, a retired attorney; and Shannon Jefferson, president of the New Britain based Lyra Lender Services, and a Soroptimist member – the will stipulated that one board member would have to be a member of the organization.

To apply for a scholarship, students and potential students must fill out a form that’s available online. The application is reviewed first by a Soroptimist committee that generates a list of prioritized applicants. The Butterer trustees review that list and make the final choice, which is based on scholarship and financial need.

Part of the application includes a SAR (Student Aid Report), which reflects the EFC (Estimated Family Contribution), based on results of the standard Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at the institution.

Over the years, Barnhurst said at a meeting in the Herald office, the look of the list has changed. “There are more adult students and fewer full-time students,” she said.

“They are not graduating from high school in the spring and are presently attending colleges, post graduate studies, and even doctoral degrees,” according to the website. “Some are individuals who have been out of high school or college for many years and are going back to school to pursue or complete a degree.”

So for any Bucks County resident of limited means contemplating higher education, which includes almost everyone, it’s a good idea to apply for a Verna Butterworth scholarship.

The award can take a winner ”to the highest heights,” as Mary Poppins sings.

Find applications for the M. Verna Butterer Educational Trust at Butterer.org. March 15 is the deadline for this year’s applications.


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