The Woman’s Club of Washington University in St. Louis has renamed its endowed scholarship to honor the contributions of longtime member Risa Zwerling Wrighton.
The club held a gala luncheon Jan. 25 at the Norwood Hills Country Club to pay tribute to her as well as this year’s scholarship recipients.
The Woman’s Club sought a way to honor Zwerling Wrighton, the wife of Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton, for her more than 20 years of service to the university, explained Linda Smith, the club’s scholarship chair and a longtime member.
“We thought the renaming was the perfect way to recognize Risa’s interest in learning, compassion for students and commitment to making a difference in people’s lives,” Smith said.
Zwerling Wrighton, an alumna and four-year academic adviser, has served the university and St. Louis communities in many ways over the years. She has shown her commitment to students and the campus community through founding the Home Plate program, in which faculty, staff and neighborhood families host students for home-cooked meals and conversations, as well as her longstanding support of student-led philanthropies such as Relay For Life, Dance Marathon and Mx. WashU.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Barnard College, a master’s in social work from the University of Maryland and a master’s in business administration from Washington University. She worked as a social worker in Baltimore and in St. Louis and then worked at Magellan Behavioral Health, developing mental health and work-life programs for corporate employers. She retired from Magellan in 2007 and began working at the university as an academic adviser in Arts & Sciences.
She also spearheaded a yearlong university initiative in 2015 examining gun violence through a public health lens. That initiative led to the innovative St. Louis Area Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Program, the first such partnership between hospitals and academic institutions in the nation.
She serves on the boards of the Our Little Haven and Provident organizations and has been active with the Jewish Federation, the Center for Creative Arts and other groups.
Zwerling Wrighton has been recognized for her work and community service, being honored in 2018 with the university’s Gerry and Bob Virgil Ethic of Service Award and as a St. Louis Woman of Achievement.
The Woman’s Club provides opportunities for friendship, learning and service to members and the broader university community.
The club first began raising money toward a scholarship fund for Washington University students in 1972. In 1990-91, it grew to an annual scholarship, and by 2005, the club began awarding two $1,000 scholarships to University College students.
In 2009-10, the club’s centennial year, the organization raised enough funds to establish an endowment for the scholarship, which will now be known as the Risa Zwerling Wrighton Woman’s Club Scholarship.
Through the fund, the organization aims to support nontraditional students who seek to earn or complete their college degrees after spending time in the workforce.
The dean of University College in Arts & Sciences, in consultation with other administrative leaders and academic advisers, selects the endowed scholarship winners. Today, after members’ work to increase the size of the endowment, the club is able to provide students with a $2,500 scholarship, which can be renewed for a second year.
The 2019 winners are Andrew Manley, David Ochola, Sawyer Smith and Heather Steinback. The club announced that next year it will be able to support five students.