Buchheit gift aims to help draw more rural students to WashU

Gift will fund summer college prep program; admission officers dedicated to Missouri, southern Illinois towns

Joyce Buchheit in Knight Hall
Joyce Buchheit, emerita trustee and alumna, wants to expand opportunities for students from rural Missouri. (Photo: Joe Angeles/Washington University)

Washington University in St. Louis alumna and Emerita Trustee Joyce Buchheit and her husband, Chauncy Buchheit, have made an $845,000 gift to help the university attract more talented students from rural communities in Missouri and southern Illinois, announced Chancellor Andrew D. Martin.

The gift will establish a free summer college preparatory program and fund two admissions officers dedicated to rural communities served by the WashU Pledge, the scholarship initiative that provides a free undergraduate education to admitted students from Missouri and southern Illinois who are Pell Grant-eligible or from families with annual incomes of $75,000 or less. The admissions officers will visit rural high schools and college fairs, where they will introduce students to campus and academic life at WashU and demystify the admissions and financial aid processes.

“WashU benefits greatly from the talents, perspectives and experiences of our rural students, but the truth is that too few rural students know who we are, and fewer still know that a WashU education is accessible,” Martin said. “Joyce’s gift will help us reach more students in our region and show them what makes WashU so special.” 

Launching next year, the summer program will serve rising high school juniors and will feature lectures with Washington University faculty, visits to St. Louis attractions such as Busch Stadium and the Saint Louis Zoo and information sessions about the college application process. Families also will be invited to tour campus and learn more about Washington University from Martin and Ronné Turner, vice provost of admissions and financial aid. The program will be free and includes room, board and meals on the Danforth Campus. Participants also may apply for funding to cover travel expenses. 

“Research shows that rural students are as talented and accomplished as their peers and yet they tend to undermatch themselves when applying to colleges,” Turner said. “Our hope is that the summer college preparatory program will help these students envision themselves thriving in a world-class research university.”

About 1% of the Class of 2025 hails from rural Missouri.  

Program details, including dates and how to apply, will be announced in the fall. Information also will be shared with counselors and principals at rural schools.

Buchheit, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business from the university, has long championed efforts to expand educational opportunities at Washington University. Over the past year, she led the university’s Student Access Advisory Committee with Trustee Jay Jacobs, a 1992 alumnus, who with his wife, Kelly Jacobs, has funded scholarships for rural students. 

In this role, Buchheit has met individually with rural students, including one rising junior who knew little about WashU despite living only 60 miles away. Buchheit was heartened to hear that Washington University has provided the resources this student needs to thrive and has broadened her understanding of the world while deepening her appreciation for her home.

“Talented students from rural communities belong at Washington University,” Buchheit said. “What makes this program exciting is students will have the chance to meet other rural students like them and find that commonality. They also will get to know the campus and the many ways that WashU supports its students throughout their education.”

Buchheit was born in Missouri’s Arcadia Valley and attended 14 different schools in her youth. She enrolled at Washington University as a married mother of two children.

“I was not the typical student, but the scholarship support I received changed my life,” said Buchheit, who also went on to earn her MBA from Washington University. “That’s why I’m always excited to give back and provide opportunities for students.”

In 1998, Buchheit and her former husband Howard Wood established a fellowship program to provide full-tuition scholarships to MBA students. They created a similar program for undergraduate business students in 2007 and made the lead gift for a simulation center at the School of Medicine in 2008. Buchheit also has supported professorships, including the Joyce and Chauncy Buchheit Professorship in Public Health and the Joyce and Chauncy Buchheit Distinguished Professorship in Olin Business School.

Buchheit served on the Board of Trustees from 2011 to 2016, when she became an emerita trustee. She is a member of the School of Medicine National Council and the Institute for Public Health National Council, which she led from 2018 to 2021.

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