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Donors create full-tuition scholarship for Whitworth international students

July 17, 2012

First scholarship recipient hails from Republic of Moldova

The 2012-13 academic year will mark the first awarding of the Elsie A. and Melvin K. Fariss Scholarship for International Students at Whitworth, thanks to a generous donation from this alumni couple. The award will cover an international student’s tuition, books, meal plan, personal living expenses, local travel, and housing for four years. Recipients must maintain a 3.0 cumulative grade point average and are expected to share aspects of their home culture with members of the community. The first student to receive the award is Eugen Lazarenco, of Chisinau, Moldova.

“As part of Whitworth’s strong commitment to internationalization on campus, we offer significant merit and need-based financial aid opportunities to our international students,” says Marie Whalen, Whitworth’s assistant director of international admissions. “The Fariss Scholarship makes it possible for a talented international student with limited or no financial means to experience a Whitworth education while sharing his or her culture and contributing to the Whitworth community. We are truly grateful for the generosity of Whitworth alumni Elsie and Mel Fariss.”

“Elsie and Mel Fariss traveled abroad extensively due to Mel’s involvement in business,” says Kristi Burns, former vice president for institutional advancement at Whitworth. “They sponsored many international exchange students and actually helped provide educational expenses for some of the young people who lived with them. They knew first-hand the value of higher education, and as Whitworth alums they placed the highest value on a mind-and-heart education from Whitworth.”

Lazarenco, who is a sophomore at Whitworth, says having a full scholarship to attend a university in the U.S. is next to impossible for a student from Moldova.

“Studying at an American university, let alone a prestigious one, on a full scholarship was something that I had never even dared to dream,” he says. “Simply having such an opportunity will change my whole family’s life tremendously.”

Lazarenco is double-majoring in international business and computer science. After graduating from Whitworth, he is considering earning a master’s degree or Ph.D. Ultimately, he plans to put his economic and technological knowledge to use by working to improve developing countries.

To students in similar situations, Lazarenco says, “Keep setting goals and keep fulfilling them. From personal experience, this has proven to be the best way to overcome barriers. I advise everybody to keep dreaming, because with hard work and effort come unimaginable results that were once thought to be unattainable.”

The Farrisses

Longtime Whitworth donors Elsie (Ratsch) Fariss, ’34, and Melvin Fariss, ’35, established the scholarship to help Whitworth maintain a global perspective in educating students. They served as host parents to students from Chile, Denmark, Holland, and New Zealand, and helped support Whitworth exchange students from China, Ethiopia, and Kenya. After Mel’s retirement, he and Elsie traveled throughout Europe, Oceania, Asia, Egypt, and South and North America.

The dean’s office in Whitworth’s Weyerhaeuser Hall was made possible by a generous gift from Elsie in Mel’s honor. In 1993, the Farisses were given the Alumni Devotion to Whitworth Award, an honor granted to alumni who have demonstrated enduring loyalty to Whitworth and who exemplify its mission.

To learn more about opportunities for international students at Whitworth, visit

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of nearly 3,000 students, offers 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Marie Whalen, assistant director of international admissions, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4571 or

Andrea Idso, interim public information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or