Southern Oregon

Three Family Generations Support Scholarships for Rural Students

The Burrill Family, Donors

Gladys “The Gladiator” Burrill wouldn't take no for an answer. She not only ran her first marathon at the age of 86 and became the oldest woman to complete a marathon at age 92, securing a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, but she also encouraged young people from her rural community in Southern Oregon to pursue their own dreams through the Burrill Family Scholarship Fund of OCF.

Burrill raised her family with husband, Gene, in Prospect, a Southern Oregon town with a population of 630. The Burrill family worked in the timber industry and then commercial real estate. As their success grew, they committed to giving back to their rural community, which was struggling economically.

In 1996, Gladys and Gene started the Burrill Family Scholarship Fund to give graduates of Prospect, Butte Falls and Eagle Point high schools support for post-secondary and vocational training, providing access to higher education that residents otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. Targeted giving efforts are important to close the opportunity gap for rural children. Uplifting students in the community not only helps current generations but also fosters a legacy of higher education.

Burrill Fund recipients receive a total award of $5,000, which supports up to four years of study or training. GPA minimum requirements are 2.5 (on a 4.0 scale) and preference is given to students with GPAs under 3.5. This range was deliberately chosen with the understanding that most students with GPAs of 3.5 and higher would likely receive other scholarships, while the Burrill Fund could offer an opportunity to promising students with fewer options.

From the beginning, the Burrill family has been committed to creating economic vitality for rural communities, in order to establish long-term resiliency. Between 2006 and 2018, over 60 scholarships have been awarded — an average of 5 each year.

Gene and Gladys have both passed away, yet the Burrill family legacy continues. Their son, Mike Burrill Sr. serves as the primary contact for the scholarship fund and his sons, Mike and Curt, third generation Burrills, are also actively involved with the fund and with The Oregon Community Foundation.

Gladys passed away on November 7, 2019, two weeks shy of her 101st birthday. As stated when she was featured on NBC News and in The Oregonian in 2011, her ability to run marathons and stay active came from her attitude. "It's so important to think positive. It's easy to get discouraged and be negative," she said. "It makes such a difference in how you feel and your outlook on everything."

We celebrate Gladys' determination and legacy of community giving.