PULLMAN, Wash. — Ask Bea Kent why she chose to leave $1.3 million to Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and you’ll get an answer as pragmatic as the successful Tacoma businesswoman is.
“I like animals,” she says.
Her relationship with pets began as a nine-year-old child in Southern California, where her family owned a little white dog with a black eye. It eventually developed distemper and had to “put down” in the backyard.
“I never owned another animal until 1966,” she said.
Today, animals provide her with unconditional love, “So long as I feed them roasted chicken and I only feed them once a day — all day,” she says. All her animals are still with her, either begging for her chicken in the kitchen or cremated, buried, and properly remembered in her yard.
Even though she never attended WSU, Kent is designating her gift to the veterinary college as a life income charitable trust, an irrevocable donation to be distributed after her death.
“I’m not on an ego trip,” she explained recently,” I just know that this is where the money will do the most good.” She established endowments in animal disease research, teaching hospital operations, and scholarships, she says, “because I wanted to see kids who are trying to make progress in their lives and who love animals have an opportunity.”
People like Bea Kent work hard to make their money and do not take lightly where it is going and what will be done with it, explained Kris Prieur, assistant dean for development and external affairs in the veterinary college. “Gifts like hers bring with them great responsibility and help make us the best veterinary medical college we can be.”
Kent made her success in life, earning every bit of it with healthy doses of calculated risks and determination. In 1964, after a failed marriage, she taught herself to be a meticulous bookkeeper and later worked for an accountant. Among her accounts was a mobile home park. One day she asked if a single woman could do something like that. The answer was a qualified “yes” from some and a flat “no” from others. Ignoring the naysayers, she spent five years working toward her goal — acquiring a mobile home park in Tacoma.
“It was very hard to do what I’ve done in the times that I did it,” she explained. Rejected for business credit so many times, Kent eventually began to use the initial “B” for her first name in hopes she might be accepted before lenders realized she was a woman. Chevron was the first company to extend her credit in 1965. She still carries the company’s credit card.
By 1991, Kent paid off her park that specializes in senior citizen residents, especially those with pets. Twice a year she takes extended travels to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where she sets up a small barter booth on the beach. In retirement, she wants to keep her hand in renovating and reselling mobile homes. And for others who may have the means to give of their possessions, Kent has some simple advice.
“Give consideration for what your money can do for the youth of today.”