Wes '74 and Lori Whitman
Strengthening the bonds between alumni, friends and parents with Muhlenberg is the advancement team's goal in order to benefit the students of today and tomorrow. Director of Leadership Giving Mark Bentz is currently working with Wes '74 and Lori Whitman of Green Valley, Arizona, on their long-term commitment to the College.
While restrictions hinder him from visiting the Whitmans in person, Mark speaks with them regularly about their bequest gift and multiple charitable gift annuities to Muhlenberg's psychology department.
Neither Wes nor Lori had a traditional path at Muhlenberg. Lori began taking night courses after high school in 1958 while working full time, and Wes soon joined her after they married in 1962. He liked the selection of courses and that they were taught by full-time professors. Though he originally thought he would study business, only accounting was offered at night. He later decided to pursue psychology.
"The psychology department was located in the basement of the Ettinger. We had one classroom and a poorly equipped laboratory," recalled Wes. "For my psych lab experimental class, I built my own rat runway with the help of the maintenance department. I was impressed with the science department buildings having pleasant classrooms and updated equipment. I then decided that if I ever could, I would financially support the psychology department."
Family obligations stopped Lori from finishing her degree, but she went on to become a paralegal and then into the banking industry where she spent 23 years in trust and financial services. She retired in 1999 as a vice president of Wachovia after surviving five mergers.
Wes earned his psychology degree at Muhlenberg then graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University with a master's in industrial/organizational psychology. He then joined the doctoral program in psychology at Stevens Institute of Technology, finishing all but his dissertation.
Wes went on to work for the human resource departments at New York Life Insurance Company and Banker's Trust Company, which is now Deutsche Bank. However, in 1993, after making the decision to leave Manhattan, former Psychology Professor Silas White asked Wes to co-teach a night course at Muhlenberg, which brought his undergraduate experience full circle. When Dr. Kathleen Harring (now Muhlenberg College president) became chair of the psychology department, Wes became an adjunct instructor, a post he held until his retirement in 1999. The couple later moved to Green Valley, Arizona.
"I loved teaching," said Wes. "I loved presenting the material and working with students. Some of my most rewarding work was instructing students with learning disabilities."
In terms of estate planning, the Whitmans set up the following for the benefit of psychology students at Muhlenberg:
- The Wesley H. '74 and Dolores Whitman Endowed Chair of Psychology;
- The Wesley H. '74 and Dolores Whitman Endowed Scholarship; and
- The Wesley H. '74 and Dolores Whitman Psychology Department Endowed Fund
The gift to the department was based on the belief that the core foundation of the department and the facilities would be helped. Additionally, they wanted to establish a scholarship "because neither one of us could afford to have a traditional college education right out of high school," said Lori. "We know there are others in the same position."
Finally, an endowed faculty chair in psychology is the third gift they wanted to ensure because both Lori and Wes believe that Muhlenberg's faculty were instrumental to their education.
"Even after teaching all day, Muhlenberg professors would stay to help night students succeed I'm talking 9:30 at night," said Lori. "They were there to help us." The Whitmans count Silas White, Ed Baldrige and Tom Lohr among their favorites and say they had better relationships with their professors than most day students.
Even after being so generous with their estate gifts, Wes and Lori decided to contribute more. In 2012, they set up a charitable gift annuity (CGA) that would go toward supporting their endowed scholarship fund. While being very pleased to just Muhlenberg, they found that the annuity allowed them to receive additional income, which is an important side benefit of supporting any non-profit organization. With the interest rates on savings going down in the fall of 2019, Lori and Wes decided to set up an additional CGA which would benefit their endowed fund.
Wes and Lori are extremely proud of the legacy they are leaving and truly hope that other alumni consider leaving a portion of their estates to Muhlenberg as they have done.