Gwen Whiting sitting in a red chair in front of a bookcase and fireplace
Sheri Hall
In Donor, Alumni, College of Human Ecology

Gwen Whiting ’98 has established a $1 million endowed scholarship that will provide full tuition to one undergraduate student in the College of Human Ecology each year. Her gift was matched by an additional $500,000 from the university as part of Cornell’s affordability challenge, which aims to make a Cornell education even more affordable for talented students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Whiting is serving as the Human Ecology’s campaign co-chair for Cornell’s To Do the Greatest Good campaign.

“The College of Human Ecology was such an important thread in my journey,” said Whiting, entrepreneur and founder of The Laundress. “I am so grateful for Cornell and the many ways it enriched my life, and continues to do so today as I stay connected and involved with the University. I feel fortunate to have the ability and opportunity to give in such a meaningful way, enabling future generations of students to have the same opportunities that I have had.” 

The scholarship is part of a new initiative by the College to expand student access and affordability by securing 100 endowed scholarships from or in honor of women by 2025. Called 100 at 100, the initiative is inspired by the college’s proud history of women’s leadership as it approaches its 100th anniversary.

“For Human Ecology, the impact of alumnae philanthropy and leadership has expanded the college’s reach for generations, improving the health and wellbeing of people in communities around the world,” said Rachel Dunifon, Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Dean of the College of of Human Ecology. “We are grateful for Gwen’s contributions, which will allow us to attract talented students who may not otherwise be able to attend Cornell.”

This is not Whiting’s first gift to the college. She established an endowment through her company, The Laundress, to fund an annual lecture series in honor of Professor Emerita Kay Obendorf that brings entrepreneurs to campus to speak with students. Whiting also personally gifted washers and dryers for the laundry laboratory, a space in the Human Ecology Building that she helped outfit and design for faculty and students to use for coursework and research.

In addition to her philanthropic support, Whiting serves on the Human Ecology Dean’s Advisory Council and the University-wide Entrepreneurship Council. Whiting is a longstanding mentor for students majoring in fiber science and apparel design and entrepreneurship. She is also a passionate advocate for connecting students, alumni, and industry together, in what she referred to as the ecosystem of Cornell. 

“Now that I’m able to contribute financially, that’s the icing on top,” she said. “What I really love is my work mentoring students and working with the College’s leadership. It’s a combination of cheerleading and offering advice and support. I love getting involved and connecting as many people back to the College as possible. Giving back in this holistic sense is incredibly powerful.”