Historic gift funds teacher scholarships

A new scholarship at the ECU College of Education will award $5,000 a year to outstanding incoming freshmen and graduate students who wish to become, or already are, classroom elementary teachers.

Edward and Sara Coble Roos ’65 recently made a record seven-figure gift to the college to establish the Roos Elementary Education Scholars Program.

Including graduate students in the scholarship program is significant. There is less incentive for teachers to pursue graduate degrees because North Carolina lawmakers in 2013 eliminated a provision that granted automatic pay raises to public school teachers who completed master’s degrees.

“When that occurred, the bottom fell out of our graduate program,” said Patricia Anderson, professor and interim chair of the Department of Elementary Education and Middle Grades Education. “Although our numbers have increased, graduate scholarships are almost unheard of.”

However, there are signs those incentives could be reinstated, and when that happens, ECU’s teachers will be ready, she said.

Roos Scholars will also be a part of the College of Education Living Learning Community and will have leadership development and travel opportunities in addition to other programming.

Originally from High Point, Sara Coble Roos studied elementary education and graduated in 1965. She loves children, and teaching a younger age group appealed to her.

“They’re like sponges. They’re interested in everything, they like learning, and teaching sets the tone for their lifelong learning,” she said. “The basic tenets of elementary education are reading, writing and arithmetic. It is important to establish those skills at an early age.”

After graduating, she got a teaching job in Florida, where she met Ed, a technician working at Cape Canaveral. Ed studied physics at the Florida Institute of Technology. They eventually married and moved to Los Altos, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley.

With neighbors like Facebook, Google and Apple, the Rooses invested in tech companies before they became the behemoths they are today. The couple decided to put their earnings toward donations to several universities, including ECU. The Roos Elementary Education Scholars Program at ECU is an endowment and a future planned estate gift.

“We want people to have the means to be educated. I’m very disturbed about the escalation of the cost to go to college,” Ed Roos said. “In my day it was relatively inexpensive. Students are forced to take out these college loans that could lead to an unstable financial future. You shouldn’t have to borrow that kind of money to go to school.”

Sara Roos added, “We want to give back to the universities that provided the skills we needed to succeed and hope we can help someone pursue their dream of becoming a teacher.”

More information is on the College of Education website.