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News Release

Jan. 24, 2023

Family establishes business scholarship in mother’s memory

By Edidiong Idong-Bassey, communication assistant

The passing of a Northwest Missouri State University alumna inspired her family to establish a scholarship in honor of her commitment to teaching business and her time at the University.

Laurel Farris Goforth recently established the Mary Lee Eisenbarger Farris Scholarship in memory of her mother, Mary Lee, who died in 2020 at the age of 102. The Goforth family set up the scholarship to extend Mary Lee’s legacy as well as assist students pursuing degrees in the field she loved.

“A lot of her students became teachers,” Laurel said. “Several of them came to her celebration of life and said, ‘I became a teacher because I was inspired by your mom.’”

Laurel, along with her husband, Carroll, and their son, Zane, funded the scholarship through her IRA and private donations.

A $1,000 award will be given annually to assist Northwest students pursuing a degree in business technology, business education or management information systems. The scholarship recipients will be full-time Northwest students with a grade-point average of 2.50 or higher. First preference will be given to graduates of Mid-Buchanan High School in Faucett, where Mary Lee taught for many decades before retiring in 1983, and second preference will be given to graduates of South Harrison High School in Bethany, where she grew up.

“We are thankful for Laurel and her family and their generous support of a scholarship to honor Mary Lee,” Laurie Long, a senior gift planning officer with Northwest’s Office of University Advancement and the Northwest Foundation, said. “Their gift is a wonderful way to show their love and respect for a life well-lived and a career devoted to helping others succeed in the classroom and beyond. We are truly appreciative of the aid and encouragement this scholarship will provide our students in furthering their education.”

Mary Lee was born into extreme poverty during the 1918 flu pandemic and grew up during the Great Depression, an era before social security and welfare checks. However, she refused to allow those circumstances to hold her back.

Mary Lee desired to teach business as a young girl, and her dreams came to fruition at Northwest. Although her family could not afford to send her to college, her aunt, a clothing model in Detroit, loaned Mary Lee $200. That was enough to pay her tuition and fees for three years.

“She had a real good knack for numbers,” Laurel said. “Growing up poor, you don’t have money. You dream about having resources and being able to invest those resources. I think that was a goal for her.”

In 1938, Mary Lee graduated from Northwest with bachelor’s degrees in business education and English. At Northwest, she was a member of Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority and worked as an assistant to Olive DeLuce, who chaired the fine arts department for 40 years.

“She did anything she could to make some extra money,” Laurel said. “She was working for 35 cents an hour, helping write thank you notes for the professors and cleaning their homes.”

Although she stepped away from teaching during various points in her career after she married and to raise her family, Mary Lee taught for a span of five decades in schools throughout northwest Missouri.

At Mid-Buchanan, Mary Lee taught typing, shorthand, bookkeeping and general business classes. She also was instrumental in establishing a Future Business Leaders of America chapter at the school. Additionally, while teaching business education, Mary Lee continued her education by completing courses in computer science and programming languages.

Laurel, who completed a Master of Business Administration at Northwest in 1993, believes the scholarship in her mother’s memory honors her roots and the value she saw in education.

“Mom always tried to help people go to college if there were kids who needed some help with money, and she’d help them get jobs,” Laurel said. “Many of her students would return to thank her because during the Korean, World War II and Vietnam wars, they would come back to say, ‘Thank goodness you taught me to type. I was able to type my way through the war.’”

For more information about the Mary Lee Eisenbarger Farris Scholarship or to make a gift to support Northwest, contact the Office of University Advancement at 660.562.1248 or, or visit


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