There was nothing in the world that Gayle Strutz, pictured here with her dog Taz, was more passionate about than her daughter, Toni Strutz. "I am an only child," shares Toni Strutz, "My mother didn't attend college and didn't enjoy her job. She always wanted to make sure that I had more opportunities and went further in life than she did."
Her mother's dedication inspired Toni Strutz to work hard and achieve her goals. "There was never a question of what I was doing after high school. Not going to college was not an option," she recalls.
And, she did go on to pursue higher education. She received her undergraduate degree from Finlandia University and her Master of Social Work from the WMU School of Social Work at the College of Health and Human Services. Currently, she is a community planning and development representative with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In January 2011, Gayle Strutz passed away, but she lives on through the Gayle Strutz Memorial Endowed Scholarship. Toni Strutz established the scholarship to memorialize her mother, honor her commitment to education, and give back to the WMU social work program that helped prepare her for her career.
"My parents were really supportive and happy when I told them I was going to continue on to get my master's degree, but I had to pay for it myself," says Toni Strutz, chuckling at the memory. "A lot of my fellow students were working full time and going to school. That was difficult, so my intention is that the scholarship helps social work students focus more on academics and less on finances. I know that every little bit helps."