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Flanked by Tom Insko (left), president of the EOU Foundation Board of Directors, and Eastern Oregon University president Bob Davies (right), Cindy Olson accepts recognition for her parentsí, Charles and Rhoda Chollet, posthumous donation of $934,000 to the EOU Foundation during the EOU Foundation Presidentís Gala Friday. (Chris Baxter/The Observer)
Gift of $934,000 from Charles and Rhoda Chollet is third largest the school has received
by Dick Mason/The Observer
Seven decades ago Charles Chollet said goodbye to his small hometown of Colville, Wash., and came to La Grande to enroll at Eastern Oregon University.
Today, the reason Chollet chose to attend Eastern is forgotten.
What never will be forgotten is a gesture of support Charles Chollet and his wife, Rhoda, have made posthumously to Eastern. The couple has donated, via their estate, $934,000 to the EOU Foundation. The gift was announced Friday evening at the annual EOU Foundation President’s Gala at the David E. Gilbert Center.
“This is a special night,” said Tim Seydel, EOU’s vice president for university advancement and admissions.
The donation is the third largest Eastern has received. Topping the list was a donation of $1.5 million made anonymously in 2008.
Terms of the $934,000 donation by the Chollets call for all of the money to be used to provide scholarships for students in need.
Cindy Olson of Orting, Wash., the Chollet’s daughter, spoke movingly about her parents and how excited they were about the opportunity to reach out to Eastern.
“I wish they could be here,” Olson said.
Charles and Rhoda Chollet both graduated from EOU, then named Eastern Oregon College of Education, in the late 1940s. The couple then moved to Pullman, Wash., where Charles earned a master’s degree. The Chollets next moved to Wenatchee, Wash., where Charles started a lifelong career in the agricultural chemical field and Rhoda, who grew up in Cove, served as an elementary school librarian. The couple later lived in other Northwest locations.
As their gift indicates, the Chollets were major supporters of the educational process.
“They were huge on education,” Olson said. “They were so pro-education it was unbelievable.”
The couple were married 57 years and during this span went on many “geologic hikes,” looking for unusual rock formations.
“They were fascinating people,” Olson said.
Charles Chollet enrolled at Eastern after serving in the Navy during World War II. He was a gunner on a plane which flew missions in the South Pacific. Chollet received a Purple Heart after being wounded during one mission when a bullet went through his mouth.
Charles died in 2003 and Rhoda died last summer.
“Their generosity will create a pathway for students to achieve their dreams,” Eastern President Bob Davies said.
Davies said people like the Chollets are invaluable to an institution like Eastern.
“Private support makes a public university a great university,” Davies said.
Olson said she was delighted to have the opportunity to present the gift on behalf of her parents.
“This is the coolest thing. I am seriously thrilled,” she said.