Giving back comes naturally to Bethany Clarkson-Morgan, BS ’94. “I was raised that it was my responsibility to help others,” she says. “Whether I’m sharing my treasure or my time, it multiplies and helps our students go out and do wonderful things.”  A 24-year veteran of BP, she puts her WashU degree in chemical engineering to work on a global level as the assurance programme lead for the Americas, Europe, and North Africa. Clarkson-Morgan lives in the Houston area with her husband, Andy, and their 12-year-old son, Griffin, who dreams of attending WashU one day.

How did your WashU experience prepare you for life after college?

Bethany Clarkson-Morgan, BS ’94, and her family

WashU prepared me to meet people with backgrounds that differ from my own. In college, I forged strong relationships with people who looked like me, yes, but I also experienced other cultures, ways of thinking, and viewpoints in a safe space. I never felt threatened or like I lost some of myself for understanding anyone else. It was really a place for me to grow. WashU allowed me to find who I wanted to be as an adult; I want to help other students have that experience.

What advice do you have for other people who want to volunteer for the Eliot Society?

If you want a truly rewarding volunteer experience, you must share a bit of yourself. Determine what you most value about WashU and figure out how you can use that to give back. I value the relationships, the camaraderie, the connections. So, I gravitate to mentoring especially, but also to reunion and the Eliot Society, which offer opportunities to build relationships. When you give of yourself to something you value, those pieces come back tenfold.  We can’t leave it all to someone else to get done. We all have to do our part.

What is an example of a way you saw the Annual Fund at work as a student?

I have a lifelong love for the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). I was introduced to the organization as a first-year student; I ultimately became chapter president. WashU’s Annual Fund helped subsidize my participation. As a college student, I could not have afforded to attend an NSBE convention for five days in New York City or Pittsburgh without financial support. And I’ve been able to carry on my involvement in the organization 34 years later largely because of the exposure and opportunities I had at WashU. Any time students can travel and experience things outside their comfort zone because of our Eliot support for the Annual Fund — that’s huge.

How do you talk to your fellow alumni about the importance of giving?

Many people worry that they have to give at a certain level. When I talk to people, I say they should just start giving and continue giving consistently, even if it isn’t their goal dollar amount. Get an annual gift going because you had wonderful WashU experiences. You benefited from your time here and need to pass it on. Any unrestricted gift to the Annual Fund affords a student more opportunity. I’m an Eliot Society member, but it was a journey. I didn’t start at this level. It’s OK to just start somewhere.

What excites you about the future of WashU?

WashU is continually innovating and adapting to meet the environment. When the no-loan policy was announced, I thought, “Oh, I have to give more and support this! This is great!” The university realizes that college is extremely expensive and that students have more costs than just tuition. Students need to travel. Students need computers. The university is in tune with what’s going on with its students.

Also, WashU’s medical research resonates with me, especially Alzheimer’s research. All the wonderful studies and advancements in just that area are fabulous. So, if my contribution gets us to the next breakthrough and helps one researcher solve a problem, it’s worth it.