Christine and David Vernier, founders of the successful Vernier Software and Technology, recently announced their donation of $3.6 million to be used for Portland State University (PSU) scholarships.

PSU president Wim Wiewel said the university is well on its way to meeting the goal he and a fundraising team set: $50 million in 3.5 years. With the Verniers’ donation and an additional anonymous gift of $3 million, PSU now has $44 million in just over two years.

Until recently, a $10 thousand donation was considered a large gift for PSU, as opposed to typical donations to the University of Oregon — which recently received a $50 million donation from an alumna and her billionaire husband.

Wiewel and the head of the PSU Foundation, Françoise Aylmer, said there has been incredible growth during the past few years; the endowment earmarked for scholarship money grew from 15 to 25 million dollars. The number of students receiving scholarships also increased, from 576 in 2010 to more than 1,000 last year, according to Aylmer.

“I am so incredibly grateful [for the scholarship],” said Karla Andrade, a PSU senior who would have been unable to attend her final year of college without a donor-funded scholarship. She works 30 hours a week to pay for school and wants to become a Spanish-language journalist. She will be the first person in her family to graduate from college.

Christine and David Vernier, both graduates of Ohio State University, relied on scholarships through college. They said costs used to be low enough that a student could work part-time to pay for school and graduate without debt.

“So many students graduate now with huge debt,” said Christine Vernier. “If we can help one student, and they’re successful, then their children are probably going to end up in college too.”

Besides writing, R. McKinley loves reading (especially historical fiction and science books), playing piano and flute, being involved in politics and community, working out, enjoying nature, and hanging out with four wonderful cats.