Helping Students Reach Great Heights: The Legacy of Lois Bright

Helping Students Reach Great Heights: The Legacy of Lois Bright

Helping Students Reach Great Heights: The Legacy of Lois Bright

Lois Bright, head of the Bright Foundation, passed away on Oct. 26, 2013, at 102 years old, leaving behind a legacy of giving that will continue for years to come.

Lois Luzena (Riddle) Bright was born Jan. 1, 1911, near Clio and attended one-room country schools in Wayne County and graduated from high school in Lineville in 1929 where she met her future husband, Homer Dale Bright. She had driven her parents' Model T Ford to school, and when she went to crank the car to go home, it backfired and broke her wrist. A handsome young blond man, Dale Bright, stepped forward and took her to the doctor. According to friends, she always said, “I never took my eye off of him after that day.”

They each moved to Des Moines after graduating high school, Dale in 1928, and Lois in 1929. Dale attended AIB business school, and since Lois’ parents didn’t have the funds to send her to college, Lois went to work at the Rollins Hosiery Mill, sewing the back seams of women’s stockings. They were married on Sept. 28, 1930, and early in their marriage, Dale became ill and was unable to work for a time, so Lois supported them with her job at the hosiery mill, even crossing picket lines at times to ensure her income remained steady.

Dale recovered from his illness and began working at the Western Tool & Stamping Company as their finance person. At the time, he was the eighth employee at the company, and when Dale retired as vice president in 1958, the company employed over 800 people.

Lois worked at the Rollins Hosiery Mill for 12 years, and upon leaving the job, she became active in her church and the community. She was involved in programs for women at Grant Park Christian Church from 1936 until it closed, and then she joined Wakonda Christian Church. She also volunteered at Ramsey Home retirement community. She was a member of East Gate Chapter Eastern Star for over 50 years and was named Worthy Matron in 1949.

She enjoyed many hobbies, including flower arranging, sewing, playing bridge and golf, traveling, and spending time with her large, extended family. She also liked to spend time with the women’s rowing team from Drake University, attending their meets and having some of the members over for dinner and to play cards.

Lois and Dale traveled extensively and always appreciated that they were able to travel and enjoy their adventures. With that appreciation and knowing their roots, they also wanted to give back to others, so the Bright Foundation was established by Lois and Dale in 1957 to provide support for a wide variety of causes which serve young people.

While the foundation was established in 1957, the H. Dale and Lois Bright Foundation was fully funded and became active in 1994. Dale passed away Aug. 14, 1996, at 86 years old, and Lois took over as president and director of the foundation.

According to her niece and current president of the Bright Foundation, Carren Sturm, “The primary goal of the foundation was always to help the disadvantaged and children. They did not have children of their own and were interested in helping children the best way they could, and the foundation was how they could make that happen.”

Since its founding, the Bright Foundation has contributed to many Iowa organizations, charities, and educational institutions. The Bright Foundation has provided scholarships at many Iowa schools including Buena Vista University, Des Moines Area Community College, Grand View University, and other schools through the Iowa College Foundation and Iowa Scottish Rite Masonic Foundation. The foundation also contributes to numerous reading and arts programs for children throughout the Des Moines area along with other children and youth-oriented programs.

In 2012, the Foundation made its first Bright Scholars of Iowa Awards to three Iowa high school seniors attending each of the three state universities. In 2013, the number of Awards was expanded to 27. These four-year renewable scholarships are designed to make higher education at Iowa universities and community colleges possible for talented young Iowans who may not otherwise have the means to get a college education.

Lois always regretted not attending college, which is why she was so interested in providing scholarships to students so that they could have the opportunity she didn’t.

Lois established the H. Dale and Lois Bright Scholarship at Buena Vista University in March 1997. She discovered BVU when a mutual friend introduced her to former trustee Dennis Young, Class of 1965, and he invited her to attend the William W. Siebens American Heritage lecture featuring Walter Cronkite. During that time she met some of the BVU students and was delighted with them. As a native of Lineville, she established a scholarship in her and her late husband’s name to support students attending BVU from Wayne County or southern Iowa who have financial need.

Each year, Lois would meet with the new and current recipients of the scholarship to learn more about them and keep track of their college progress. According to scholarship recipient Michael Irvin, Class of 2005, “She was very humble about her beginnings and took a very real interest in each of our backgrounds. Lois wanted to know what our future plans were and how she could help each of us reach our goal. It was amazing after that first year how she remembered me, where I was from, and what my future plans included. Meeting with her was an event I looked forward to every year.”

In 2004, BVU honored Lois with the Wendell Halverson Outstanding Friend Award. This award is given to individuals who have not attended BVU and is in recognition of extraordinary service to the University and to others and persevering dedication to the qualities of service for which the University stands.

In remembering Lois, Wes Richie, secretary of the board for the Bright Foundation says, “Lois was a small, perky, and stylish lady. She always had a smile and was very friendly. On the other hand, she was a very good business person and sharp. She could ask the tough questions, and no one ever pulled the wool over her eyes. She shined.”

Growing up knowing Lois and Dale, Sturm provides some insight to Lois and her personality. “Lois was a delightful person and had a great sense of humor. She would catch on to any joke and give it right back to you. She didn’t gossip, and everything was always proper. She did not brag, and never talked about money, business, or politics. Business was business only. Lois was one of those people that no matter what she wore, she wore it well,” said Sturm. “Growing

up, I remember her and Dale always being very nice. They lived in a modest, nice home and didn’t have anything extravagant. She always remembered where she came from, and they put their money in the foundation to help others. One of the reasons they leaned toward the scholars was to help give them a start in life.”

Lois made quite an impact at Buena Vista University with both staff and students. “Lois was a dear friend to me and to the University and our students,” said Ken Converse, vice president for institutional advancement at Buena Vista University. “Her eyes always lit up when she had an opportunity to meet ‘one of her kids.’ Meeting these students meant so much to her and to the students. She took special interest in them as people, interested in their studies, activities, and families. Her generosity was an inspiration to those of us who were able to work with her.”

“The generosity of Lois Bright and the Bright Foundation aided in allowing me to become the first person in my family to graduate from college, and since graduation, helped ease my financial burden as I continue my career in education and

coaching,” said Eric Whited, Class of 2008 and recipient of the H. Dale and Lois Bright Scholarship, who is now a biology teacher, assistant football coach, and assistant track coach at Liberty North High School in Liberty, Mo. “Mrs. Bright’s contribution to my education will have a deep and lasting impact as I pass on her message of ‘giving’ with my own family, and the interactions and lessons I will share with thousands of my future students.”

“The H. Dale and Lois Bright Scholarship meant an opportunity to me – the opportunity to attend Buena Vista University which I would not have been able to afford without the help of this scholarship,” said Kyle Auffert, Class of 2013. “As we all know, one opportunity leads to another and here I am, currently working as a tax associate at McGladrey, a CPA firm in downtown Des Moines. Without the help of Mrs. Bright, this may have been a missed opportunity. I am very thankful for the scholarship I received, and I have done my best to make good use of it.”

Michael Irvin, who is now assistant principal and athletic director at Clarinda High School, added, “The loss of Lois Bright leaves a huge void in the Buena Vista family. The Bright Foundation, headed by Lois, made it possible for many students to earn a degree, which would not have been possible without her help. Her impact on my college career goes far beyond the financial help of the scholarship. Her genuine interest in my success in the classroom and in life went far beyond my expectations. Lois helped me understand how important it is to give back. I would not be where I am today without Lois Bright.”