CWU News

CWU Super Supporter Ruth Harrington Honored for Scholarship Fundraising Effort

ELLENSBURG, WA— Over the past few decades, Ruth Harrington and her friends have raised a cool million dollars for scholarships for students at Central Washington University.

Let that sink in: a million dollars.

Which is why Harrington was named this year’s CWU Alumni Association Legacy Award honoree. Since 1973, she has organized dozens of brunch, lunch, and dinner groups to raise money for CWU student scholarships that benefit high school seniors and single parents.

Harrington saw her love of cooking as a way to bring CWU and the community of Ellensburg together. “I just thought ‘we need to all work together and benefit students,” Harrington said.

She added, “I’m just happy that we’ve been able to raise this much money over the years and benefit students with help from so many people. We’ve had silent auctions, cookbooks, and so many things that helped raise this money over the years–it was not just me. I want to thank all the people that have been involved and contributed.”

Her impressive scholarship program began as a coffee hour at Harrington’s house with 22 women paying $1.50 each. By the end of the first year, participants grew to 22 separate groups, each with 12 members. 44 years later, Harrington has officially raised more than $1 million. She has become a staple in the lives of CWU students and the Central Washington University community.

“The Ruth Harrington Scholarship luncheons are a great example of the impact one person can have on the lives of many,” said Catherine Scarlett, a luncheon participant and CWU donor. “Ruth tracks each group’s members, calls to remind folks to attend and along the way collects thousands of dollars each year for these scholarships.”

And she does this without email, social media, or any assistance.

“In the era of email and reminders from our devices, I still get a personal phone call from Ruth telling me about my lunch group,” Scarlett said. “Once you have personally told Ruth that you will be there, you’re less likely to miss it.”

Scott Wade, Vice President of University Advancement and Executive Director of the CWU Foundation, expressed his gratitude for Harringon’s efforts.

“We appreciate the decades of investment that Ruth has made to CWU and the lives of our students,” he said. “She has devoted her life to this amazing scholarship program, and her legacy will have transformational impact for generations.”

The Legacy Award honors individuals whose contributions and achievements in the community embody CWU’s mission of fostering citizenship, being responsible stewards of the earth, and leading enlightened and productive lives.

The Ellensburg Downtown Association honored Harrington with the 2013 Town and Gown Award for her contributions in supporting a strong and collaborative partnership between CWU and the Ellensburg community.

Media contact: Richard Moreno, Department of Public Affairs, 509-963-2714,