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Oklahoma State University

Alumna honors mother by creating OSU scholarship

Tue, November 29, 2016

Carter is first recipient of Mary Jo Webb Scholarship

Ashley Carter

Leah Gungoll knows what sacrifices her mother made in choosing to attend Oklahoma State University as a 30-something married mother of four in the 1970s. In fact, Gungoll and her mom, Mary Jo Webb, had classes together as Webb completed her 1974 sociology degree and Gungoll earned her 1975 speech pathology degree.

“My dad was a rancher, and they depended on the oil and cattle markets for their income,” Gungoll said. “My mom decided that she was going to go to college so that she could have a job that they could fall back on a steady income when things got low again. It wasn’t a popular thing to do at the time, but she and four other women would drive the 50 miles from Fairfax, Oklahoma, three times a week, sometimes more. It was hard on them, and hard on the family too, but what she did for her family means a lot to us.”

Gungoll added, “Mom faced a lot of criticism from others. At one point, there was a checkout lady at the grocery store who told her that she needed to stay home with her children. But she did what she knew was best for her family, and she did great. We had a couple of classes together, and she got better grades than I did.”

Webb, a member of the Osage Nation, followed her bachelor’s degree with a 1975 master’s in Indian manpower planning, funded by the Department of Labor. She taught Indian history at Fairfax High School, served as director of education for Dick Conner Correctional Facility in Hominy, and worked for her tribe in various capacities, including at the Whitehair Memorial Learning Resource Center near Fairfax.

Gungoll’s respect for what her mother did inspired her to establish the Mary Jo Webb Scholarship, which she did with her husband, Brad (’75 agricultural economics).

“For Christmas last year, we surprised mom by telling her we had done this,” Gungoll said. “She got teary-eyed, and she doesn’t show emotion often.”

Recipients must have at least a 2.5 GPA and be enrolled full-time at OSU. First preference is given to a female non-traditional student, “defined as a student who has had a break in her education pursuits in order to raise a family or care for dependent family members.” Second preference is for a member of the Osage Tribe of Oklahoma, and then for a member of any federally recognized Native American tribe.

The first recipient is Ashley Carter, a 26-year-old elementary education senior from Konawa and member of the Cherokee Nation.

“This scholarship is such a big help to me in pursuing my dream,” Carter said. “I am so thankful for the Gungolls’ generosity, and receiving this was such a great sign to keep doing what I’ve been doing.”

Carter is a transfer student from nursing school, who now plans to pursue a master’s degree as she pursues a career in education policy and administration with either the Cherokee Nation or the Bureau of Indian Education.

“I hope to eventually create my own scholarship at OSU for Native American students in education, because OSU has been so giving,” Carter said. “The Native American population is who I want to serve the most because I think my work would be more appreciated and utilized most extensively.”

Gungoll had students such as Carter in mind when she created this fund.

“I want to make it easier for a student who needs financial help, who has other responsibilities that a traditional student doesn’t have – such as children or other financial obligations like debt – to get a degree and establish a career to secure a more financially stable life for her and her family.”

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