A pair of $150 scholarships awarded to sisters Lola Lehman and Lottie Herd during the Great Depression changed their lives. Nine decades later, the impact of those initial scholarships has multiplied nearly 2,000 times in support for OSU students.
Lehman and Herd established three scholarships in the 1970s and later boosted each fund through estate gifts. Herd died at the age of 84 in 1995, and Lehman followed in 2012, just two weeks shy of her 103rd birthday.
“A monument at my grave won’t mean anything to anyone,” Lehman said during an interview about her life. “These scholarships are our memorials.”
The Daniel C. and Mary L. Herd Memorial Scholarship supports elementary education majors in the College of Education. The Lola Lehman and Lottie Herd Scholarship helps College of Human Sciences students. The Clifford and Lola Lehman and Lottie Herd Memorial Scholarship is for students in the Spears School of Business, Center for Veterinary Health Sciences or College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.
Since 1974, those funds have awarded a total of $598,475 to 851 students. This year, 84 students, including 15 College of Education students, received a total of $105,000. The Edmon Low Library also benefits from endowments established by the sisters.
“As time goes on, my recipients will give back, then their recipients will give back and that will go on forever,” Lehman said. “Even when I’m not here to see it, it’s a good feeling to leave this world knowing you’ve helped create that domino effect.”
Lehman and Herd were born in 1909 and 1910, the first two of three daughters raised on a Land Run farm near Woodward, Okla. Their parents, Daniel and Mary Herd, strongly encouraged higher education.
The sisters shared a one-room apartment while attending then-Oklahoma A&M College. The Great Depression forced them to leave college twice and work as teachers until they could afford tuition. Their younger sister, Leone Adams, also attended OAMC before graduating from Northwestern Oklahoma State University.
“My sisters and I all had better lives because of our OSU educations,” Lehman said. “I think back to the $150 we needed so desperately and how much it helped us to stay at OSU. I hope these scholarships help students in the same way.”
Lehman completed a home economics degree in 1932, followed by a University of Arkansas master’s and 37 years working as an Arkansas extension educator. Herd earned two OSU degrees — a 1938 bachelor’s in household arts and a 1956 master’s in elementary education. She spent most of her career teaching in Tulsa.
The sisters received many accolades from OSU. In 1975, OSU President Robert Kamm hosted them for a luncheon to express the university’s appreciation for their generosity. The College of Human Sciences named them Distinguished Alumnae in 1989. Lehman was honored as Women for OSU’s 2010 Philanthropist of the Year.
As both sisters lived out their retirement years in Woodward, they enjoyed helping OSU students just as others had done for them decades earlier.
“I really look forward to hearing stories about the students who receive scholarships,” Lehman said. “Just observing and knowing more about these young people who accomplish so much is reward enough for me.”
Lehman also shared some wisdom she gained over more than a century.
“Students today should remember three rules for a good life: They need to know how to be a good manager of their finances, their time and their health.”
If you are interested in supporting the College of Education through an estate gift or any other method, contact Denise Unruh, senior director of development at the OSU Foundation, at 405-385-5663 or dunruh@OSUgiving.com.
“Lola Lehman and Lottie Herd did so much for the College of Education and all of Oklahoma State University,” Unruh says. “Their generosity serves as a powerful reminder of the value of estate gifts, which most people find to be an easy way to make a lasting difference. Just as $150 changed the sisters’ lives in the 1930s, their generosity is changing lives for current and future students.”