CWU News

Scholarship Established to Honor Sociology Professor Laura L. Appleton

Central Washington University professor of Sociology Laura L. Appleton wanted to make sure students like her had opportunities for continued education.

With that in mind, the family and friends of the late educator have donated $400,000 to establish the Laura L. Appleton Endowment for Graduate Study in Sociology to help a CWU sociology major attend the graduate program of his or her choice.

“The transition between undergraduate and graduate school can be very challenging, especially for first-generation students,” said Staci Sleigh-Layman, director of human resources at Central Washington University and a colleague of Appleton’s. “Faculty will then support the students in their transition (with the help from the Laura L. Appleton Endowment Scholarship).”

Jay Osborn, Appleton’s former teaching assistant at Central and close friend, said the scholarship will be an instrumental tool for first-generation and second-generation college students to move forward in their careers.

“Her scholarship is intended to provide the bridge between undergrad and grad school. The act of applying, researching, interviewing and just getting there can be challenging,” Osborn said. “Dr. Appleton wanted to ensure that brilliant minds could go as far as they can. She also relied on scholarship money to get her education.  Her impact at Central over the last 46 years will carry on into the future.”

Throughout her career, Appleton enjoyed teaching and mentoring bright, curious, and hard-working students who approached their studies seriously, according to friends. The new Laura L. Appleton Endowed Scholarship will be awarded annually to a CWU junior, who demonstrates exceptional promise to make contributions to the field of sociology.
To be eligible for this award, a student must:

• Be enrolled full time as a CWU undergraduate major in sociology;
• Have a grade point average of at least 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) in his/her most recent academic program; and
• Demonstrate a commitment to their education in order to contribute to the greater social good.

Sociology Department faculty will help identify potential scholarship recipients. The scholarship will be awarded in May of each year with the scholarship disbursed the following year. Application materials include a completed cover letter, academic resume, and a 500-word essay detailing life experience leading to graduate school, as well as academic and career goals including plans for sociological contributions.

Appleton began teaching at Central in 1970 and continued teaching until she passed away on August 11th, 2016. She was the first female faculty member hired in the CWU Department of Sociology which, at the time, consisted of 15 men. Appleton developed and taught many new classes including Sociology 356, Gender Roles.

“Laura not only had an impact on my life but the impact was life changing,” noted Valerie Jenness, a former student who is now a professor of criminology, law and society, sociology, and nursing science at the University of California, Irvine.
Appleton had a knack for challenging students to perform, leaving an impression on everyone she taught, according to Osborn.

“Laura had the ability to recognize students who were not working up to their full potential.,” he said, “Perhaps no one had ever challenged them or they were able to skate by without using their full intellect. Laura would call that out and make sure the student understood she knew they could do better.”

Appleton is survived by her sister, Sue Ellen Ellis; her friends Joan Sondregger, Jay Osborne, Dean Duby, Staci Sleigh-Layman, Kandee Cleary, Kitty Stoffle; her colleagues in the CWU Sociology Department; and the hundreds of students whose lives she has influenced.

Media contact: Annie Young, Director of Communications, CWU University Advancement, 509-963-2847,