The Proud Ladies of Sigma Rho

Sigma Rho

Sigma Rho scholarship donors and recipients in the food lab kitchen at SPU (left to right): Linda Middlebrooks ’64, SR co-president; Kathy Mayhle ’58, SR co-president; seniors Cortney Moore, Kirsti Graffenberger, and Andrea O’Brien; Nancy Edwards ’64, SR treasurer; and Rosalee Hughson ’60, SR secretary.

Cousins and co-presidents of Seattle Pacific University’s Sigma Rho honorary society, Kathy Blair Mayhle ’58 and Linda Brown Middlebrooks ’64 love raising funds for student scholarships.

That fact means a great deal to senior Cortney Moore from Port Orchard, Washington. The first person from her family to go to college, she calls the Sigma Rho Scholarship “an enormous blessing.”

“Every member of my family, including me, works to help pay for my education,” says Cortney, who wants to combine her abilities in public relations and fashion design and apply them in work with a design studio or fashion magazine. “Sigma Rho is one reason why I am able to accomplish my dream.”

The 60 members of Sigma Rho have built and continue to grow their endowed scholarship fund, which is managed by the Seattle Pacific Foundation. Founded in 1986, the Sigma Rho Scholarship Endowment, funded by dues, gifts, and special offerings, now stands at $200,000.

The organization is particularly proud of its 76-year history of support, specifically of students majoring in Family and Consumer Sciences (“Home Economics” when Sigma Rho first formed in 1937) and those interested in education careers.

Both Kathy and Linda are educators. Linda says, “These young students with so much talent and Christian personality first study at SPU, then take it out there where they can be a positive influence on a classroom of 30 kids.” She believes those scholarship recipients will demonstrate by their lives that God is in control and that a person’s reliance should not be on themselves but on Him. “If students hear that over and over,” Linda concludes, “we can change the world through our SPU graduates.”

Kirsti Graffenberger ’14 of Albany, Oregon, and Andrea O’Brien ’13 of Spokane, Washington, are also 2013 Sigma Rho Scholarship recipients. Both say that Sigma Rho’s generosity helped them over the financial hurdle in their study for careers as registered dietitians.

Kirsti, a farmer’s daughter and missionary grandchild, has traveled through a number of countries including the Dominican Republic and India. She believes that hunger is a solvable problem. In 2011, she spent six weeks at an infant care center in northern Haiti caring for 50 malnourished children.

“It reassured me that the role of dietitians fighting hunger is a global need,” Kirsti says. “I learned more about what other organizations are doing to help solve the hunger problem. I want to use that knowledge and what I’ve learned in college to educate people in how to better feed themselves and live a healthy lifestyle.”

Andrea’s focus will also be treating nutrition-related issues, but especially those within the aging Baby Boomer generation.

Sigma Rho presidents Kathy and Linda say that now the academic discipline of Family and Consumer Sciences has broadened beyond the “cooking and serving” model of old to include interior design, clothing and textiles, food and nutritional sciences, and the teaching of FCS education.

“It needs to stay relevant to the times,” says Linda. “We’re very proud of our scholarship recipients and their career plans.”

There was a day when Sigma Rho, the Greek letters that look like the “S” and “P” in Seattle Pacific, made and sold dish towels, and eventually began charging dues and holding silent auctions, plant sales, and art gallery tours to fund kitchen equipment and small appliances for the budget-strapped Home Economics Department. Over time, the needs may have changed, but the loyalty and enthusiasm of Sigma Rho alumni and friends never waned.

Scholarship recipients are invited to share their goals at Sigma Rho meetings. Because the size of the group has increased, the gatherings have moved from homes to campus facilities such as the Falcon Lounge.

Cortney says that the accepting learning environment of SPU feels like her home away from home. For Andrea, it has been a case of expanding her scientific knowledge, personal growth, and faith in God. Kirsti likes that studying in SPU’s urban location has opened doors for her to serve the people of Seattle. She, as well as Andrea, have been a part of the student-led SPU Community Kitchen program that both teaches good nutrition and provides opportunities where the cooking that results is shared at meals attended by instructors and participants.

For Kathy and Linda, SPU was the place where they were given a Christ-centered, lifelong education and where their familial relationship as cousins finally blossomed. To share the heritage that is Sigma Rho thrills them. They invite others to join. They say the more young people who benefit from “a group of ladies who started a scholarship endowment that just keeps on growing,” the better.