Family creates scholarship in memory of longtime student advocate

Susan Butts

Students studying engineering or natural resource sciences, or who are leading student organizations, can apply for a new scholarship established in memory of Susan L. Butts, a dedicated employee in Washington State University’s Office of Student Involvement who died last year.

Butts began her career at WSU in 1998, working in WSU Extension for the 4-H Program. During the last 10 years of her service, she worked as the budget and finance manager in Student Involvement and was revered by students and staff for her professionalism and caring nature.

Her parents, Larry and Patricia, and her sister, Sally, created the Butts Family Endowed Scholarship as a tribute to her career and love of working with students. She is also survived by her brother, John, and her daughter, Rahel.

“She enjoyed everyone she worked with, but it was working with students that energized her,” Sally Butts said.

Patricia Butts added, “She would be very pleased there is a scholarship in her memory that will help support students because earning a college degree meant a lot to her.”

To be eligible for the scholarship, students must be enrolled at WSU Pullman with at least 45 earned credits and must meet one of these criteria: major in either natural resource sciences or engineering, serve as an officer in a chartered student organization affiliated with Student Involvement, or be a student employee in the Student Involvement office. In addition, applicants should have demonstrated leadership and service in the WSU community.

Students interested in the scholarship need to complete the WSU general scholarship application. Acommittee consisting of staff and students within Student Affairs will convene to select one student who will receive a $1,000 scholarship for the next academic year.

Strong WSU connections

Susan Butts and her sister Sally
Susan Butts and her sister Sally cheer on the Cougar football team.

Butts and her family have many meaningful connections to WSU that helped shape the scholarship criteria. Her dad earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering at WSU, and her mom worked as a switchboard operator in Regents Hall. Her sister is also a WSU graduate, having earned her bachelor’s degree in natural resource sciences. Although Butts earned her college degree at Lewis and Clark Sate College, she was born in the Pullman hospital when it was located on campus in what is now the Washington Building. When she was a young child her family lived on College Hill, and they loved attending Cougar football games as season ticket holders.

Brian Shuffield, executive director of Student Involvement, said Butts’ affection for WSU was evident in everything she did in the office and described her as the glue that held everything and everyone together. She was the office’s budget manager, but her impact extended far beyond her immediate role.

“She engaged with everyone in the office, attended all our important events, and supported our staff,” Shuffield said. “I think people remember her so well because of the way she interacted with them and the care that she had for her work, her team, and WSU.”

 ‘Incredible advocate for students’

Students who worked with Butts said they appreciated her positive attitude and the interest she took in their lives. If someone was going through a difficult time, whether they were a staff member or student, Butts would send them a personal card, maybe some flowers or a candy bar. She also enjoyed recognizing people’s birthdays and accomplishments.

Patricia and Larry Butts
Patricia and Larry Butts enjoyed attending Cougar football games with their daughters Susan and Sally.

Logan Webbenhurst, director of annual giving for the Salvation Army in Spokane, worked closely with Butts for four years when he served on the WSU Student Entertainment Board. One of his proudest accomplishments was bringing entertainer Snoop Dogg to campus in 2014.

“When I announced the news on the radio that Snoop was coming to WSU, Susan was the first person to come up to me to say she heard me and that I did an amazing job,” Webbenhurst said. “The support and excitement she showed for students is so memorable. She was an amazing person.”

Bree Kelsey, a COVID-19 contact tracer for the Snohomish County Health District in Everett, Wash., worked with Butts throughout her years at WSU – first as a leadership ambassador and student executive director of the leadership center, and later as the creative services manager in the student organization center.

Kelsey said Butts had a straightforward, no-nonsense approach to things and as a shy person, Kelsey was intimidated by her at first. She quickly discovered, though, that Butts was a very nice and caring person.

“She was the exact kind of person you want to have in your corner,” Kelsey said. “She was an incredible advocate for students and staff and helped to make sure people’s voices were heard when they needed to be.”

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