A Western Carolina University alumna is saluting her late sister’s 22 years of service in the U.S. Navy by launching an endowed scholarship fund in her memory designed to support members and veterans of the armed forces.
The Melanie L. Baldovin Memorial Endowed Scholarship was established through gifts and pledges totaling $25,000 from Shannon Puterbaugh of Greensboro, a 1993 graduate of WCU with a bachelor’s degree in political science.
On the one-year anniversary of a gift agreement signed fittingly enough last Veterans Day (Nov. 11, 2021), the fund now stands at more than $51,000 thanks to additional corporate contributions from Arch Mortgage Insurance in Greensboro. Puterbaugh is employed at Arch as marketing events manager.
Beginning next year, the fund will provide financial support to students with a minimum of GPA of 3.0 pursing a bachelor of arts degree, with special consideration given to active-duty members of the military or veterans, and a preference for those with service in Navy in recognition of the honoree’s naval career.
Baldovin enlisted at the age of 19, deciding to join the Navy as her career path because of her love for the ocean, Puterbaugh said.
“I was a senior at WCU when my sister left for boot camp in March of 1993,” she said. “Although Melanie was unable to attend my college graduation because of boot camp, I have fond memories of my sister’s visits to Cullowhee while I was in school. I hold those memories close to my heart.”
A highly decorated officer with numerous medals, ribbons and citations, Baldovin finished her career with an honorable discharge in 2015 after 22 years of service. She died unexpectedly in 2016.
“We had always been very close,” Puterbaugh said. “Last year, my husband and I were talking and he mentioned that I should set up a marketing scholarship at WCU because I work in the marketing department at Arch Mortgage Insurance. “But then an idea occurred to me; I could set up a memorial scholarship in my sister’s name honoring her career and service to the U.S. Navy.”
And that’s exactly what Puterbaugh decided to do.
“With the endowment of my sister’s scholarship, her name and legacy will live on through numerous students at Western Carolina University who receive the scholarship. Melanie L. Baldovin will never be forgotten,” she said. “I am hoping that recipients who otherwise would not be able to afford attending WCU or who might have to spend too many hours away from the classroom because they are working to pay for college would be able to attend WCU and focus on their studies.”
For any potential donors who may be thinking about creating a scholarship fund in memory of a loved one, Puterbaugh has three words of advice. “Just do it,” she said. “You’re creating a legacy that will last in perpetuity and will have an impact on current students and future generations.”
Puterbaugh also said that she is grateful for the two-for-one corporate matching contributions provided by her employer, which enabled the scholarship fund to reach endowed status much quicker than originally envisioned.
“At Arch, investing in the communities where our employees live and work has played a critical role in our company’s success over the past 20 years,” said Jim G. Jumpe, the company’s senior vice president for marketing. “We are proud that our employees take advantage of the Arch Global Giveback program, which provides a 2:1 corporate match for the organizations they want to receive corporate donations.”
The Baldovin Scholarship will help members of the armed forces and veterans earn degrees at an institution ranked among the nation’s top 10 “military friendly” institutions, said Briana Ford, director of military student services at WCU.
“The GI bill is a great benefit, but some service members do not have GI Bill to use,” Ford said. “This scholarship helps those service members without GI Bill benefits to complete their education goals.”
After completing boot camp in 1993, Baldovin went to school to study to become a quartermaster, with her first overseas tour spanning two years in Italy. Following additional training in Charleston, South Carolina, she was stationed for two years in Iceland, working as a military police officer while there.
Baldovin then resumed duties as quartermaster in Mayport, Florida, before being stationed in San Diego for several years, serving on a Navy destroyer. Her deployments included several nine-month stints at sea, including in the Persian Gulf. After several years in California, Baldovin was stationed in the Bahamas, where she was promoted to rank of chief petty officer in 2005. While in the Bahamas, she qualified for underwater weaponry training before returning to San Diego to serve again on a destroyer.
She earned a degree in oceanography from Coastland Community College in Fountain Valley, California, in 2007. Promoted to senior chief petty officer in 2008, she finished her military career while stationed in Florida in 2015.
For more information on creating an endowment to help students pursue their higher education goals or to provide programmatic support, contact the WCU Division of Advancement at 828-227-7124 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit give.wcu.edu.