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student dropping out and staying in school. “Unfortunately, many of today’s students are graduating with large amounts of debt,” she said. “My parents, although not wealthy, were able to put my brother and me through college. We worked to help and with a few small scholarships, we were able to graduate without debt. Don and I know the scholarships we provide don’t relieve all the debt students have, but they can help.” Over the years, the Whitakers have enjoyed meeting students who have been recipients of their scholarships. They have enjoyed that communication and being able to see where education takes the students. “I hope that as time and finances allow, those who receive our help will also give back by setting up scholarships or making contributions to established scholarships at their alma maters,” she said.

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Commitment to her profession has led to numerous awards including induction into the UK School of Human Environmental Sciences Hall of Fame in 2005 and being named one of the school’s Centennial Laureates in 2007. In 2003, she received the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences Distinguished Service Award. In her role as alumni association president, Whitaker wants to look at its membership structure, ways to get more graduates to participate and ways of connecting with all alumni. “We have to remember that the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment has graduates all over the world,” she said. “Today’s graduates are very service oriented, so maybe’s there is a new direction we need to pursue as an association.”

The Ambassador - July 2019