Mentor program honors retiree

Jacqui Becker

A mentoring program for college students planning development careers was recently created in honor of an ISU retiree.

The program, named for Robert Watson, associate vice president and director of Leadership Gifts at the ISU Foundation, and his wife, Jean, was announced March 30.

Tom Mitchell, president of the ISU Foundation, said the Robert and Jean Watson Endowed Advancement Education Program has two purposes.

“The first purpose was to notice and recognize Bob and Jean for their outstanding years and commitment to Iowa State,” Mitchell said. “The second purpose was to provide opportunities for talented, young people in pursuing a career in advancement.”

The program will offer six-month internships or graduate fellowships with the ISU Foundation. It is financed through an endowment established with private donations.

“A number of colleagues and friends have contributed to the fund,” Mitchell said. “The balance is at $360,000, and we still have gifts coming in.”

The program’s goal is to have $500,000 in an endowment fund that operates off the interest earned each year from the endowment. If the interest is set at 5 percent, the money allotted for the applicants would be near $20,000, Mitchell said.

He said Iowa State would benefit from the program if individuals with high standards are brought to the foundation.

“The No. 1 factor is identifying young, talented people,” he said. “Our hope is to identify people that may be here long-term.”

The Watsons have been very kind in helping mentor other staff members, Mitchell said. He wanted to create something that would honor their dedication.

“We took all the ingredients — mentoring, honoring, recognizing — and created this program,” he said.

Robert Watson said he didn’t have any idea something like this would happen.

“It’s like you were getting the Pulitzer; it’s just such a great honor,” he said.

Mitchell said he wanted the Watson name to live on forever.

“Watson scholars will have opportunities to explore their interests in this field,” he said.

Even though Watson recently retired, he said he still hopes to have a role in the Watson scholars.

“Jean and I will be thrilled to help if we can as mentors,” he said. “We’d like to meet with recipients, answer any questions and help anyway we could.”

He said he was happy his wife’s name was included in the endowment.

“She’s been a perfect partner for such a long time,” he said. “I’m very pleased her name was included.”