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Bay City, MI 48708, USA

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Janet's Story

In 1989 Janet Penn earned an associate degree from Delta College. In the course of the almost 30 years that followed, family, work and life in general kept her quite busy; but she never gave up on going back to school to complete her bachelor's degree. She did not know it at the time, but a special Bay Area Community Foundation donor had established a scholarship specifically for women like her who were working to further their education while also balancing the demands of work and family life.

Barbara Livingston, a BACF trustee from 1996 until her death in 1999, created a scholarship fund in 1996 to benefit adult women who were returning to college. She experienced first-hand the obstacles of being a working adult while putting herself through law school and wished to help other women of similar pursuit. Barbara chose the name Zoe (pronounced zoh-ee) for this fund — the word means "life" in Greek.

Since 1999, over $70,000 has been awarded by The Zoe Fund to 74 recipients. Janet Penn is one of those recipients.

Three years ago, Janet returned to Delta College to pursue her degree through the 3+1 program Delta offers with Northwood University. Her husband, Jim, daughters, Whitney and Cassie, and stepchildren Allie and Bob encouraged her to tackle this goal and she received help and support from her coworkers as well.

She also received a boost from a woman she had never met: Barbara Livingston. In 2015, Janet received a scholarship from The Zoe Fund to help her as she worked toward her goal. It was the first scholarship she had ever received!

During her time in college, Janet  took two online classes per semester and was enrolled year-round. Her daily routine consisted of a 4:00 a.m. wake-up call that allowed time to complete homework before heading to her job as an administrative specialist at Dow Chemical Company in Midland. Lunch breaks were also spent working on school assignments.

In May of this year, Janet graduated summa cum laude from Northwood University with a Bachelor's in Business Administration Management.  She recently wrote to share her story, and her thanks, with us and with Barbara's family.

She wrote, "I was blessed to receive a scholarship in 2015 and am proud to let you know that in May 2016, I completed my studies at Northwood University. I am so grateful for the financial support I received and I just wanted to reach out and say thank you!"

Now that she has completed her degree, Janet finds that she is more confident in her current position and is seeing doors open to new opportunities. She encourages other older students who may be considering a return to the classroom to just start.

"You can do this! Step one is to start. Three years ago I thought I would never finish, but before I knew it, I was walking across the stage summa cum laude," she exclaimed!

Robert Monroe, Barbara Livingston's husband of 22 years, sent this message in response to Janet's announcement, “Congratulations to Janet Penn for earning her bachelor's degree, with honors, from Northwood University this past May. Barbara would have been pleased and proud to have helped in some small measure. A passionate lifelong student, Barbara knew that pursuing an education was always about challenges. For numerous people, the focus and commitment in life to marriage, family, work has in some way interrupted their education. Barbara felt deeply that there should be targeted support for women when they decided to pick up that education thread and continue. The Zoe Fund was established in that spirit and we are proud to be part of the ongoing educational focus of the Bay Area Community Foundation.”

And we, at the Bay Area Community Foundation, are so grateful that Barbara entrusted her legacy of caring and concern for others to us!

The Zoe Fund in Memory of Barbara Livingston is one of over 100 funds awarding nearly 350 scholarships made possible by generous donors through the Bay Area Community Foundation. The scholarship application is available online on December 1 of each year at

>> View the complete list of GLBCCRC Success Stories here