Eva-Lynn Janson graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences in 1972 with an independent degree in Latin American studies. After a long career as a nurse-midwife in Eureka, CA, Eva decided to establish the Eva Janson Annual Scholarship for first-generation college students. As a first-generation college student herself, she feels it’s important to help other students on their educational journeys. Learn more about Eva and her decision to support students at Cornell University.
Tell us about your journey to Cornell and your experiences as a student.
My father was an immigrant from Sweden who had less than a high school education, and my mother was a social worker. They always encouraged me to go to college, and I think it was even assumed I would go. During my junior year of high school, my guidance counselor arranged a trip to Cornell, so I could meet with an alumna that she knew. The alumna gave me a tour of Cornell’s campus, which put Cornell on the map for me. I was really impressed. You could tell Cornell had been coed for a while—the campus had a welcoming feel to it. The combination of state and private schools brought a wide range of students together, so it was great to meet classmates of all backgrounds.
I enjoyed the process of finding out what I wanted to study and forming a major on my own with the help of my Latin American studies professor and advisor. I took all sorts of classes: history, language, policy, and anthropology. One course in particular that stands out was taught by professor Walter LaFeber. I remember listening to his lectures and just thinking, “Whoa!” I really enjoyed his class on foreign policy. He was an amazing professor.
How has Cornell impacted who you are today?
Cornell gave me the foundation to help me realize what I wanted to do and the tools to succeed at it. After graduating, I joined VISTA—now Americorps VISTA—and was placed in the Cook County legal aid office, where I worked with young mothers in the Chicago suburbs. Through that experience, I realized that working in maternal and child health was my passion. I went on to receive my master’s degree and became a nurse-midwife. The classes I took at Cornell, especially the anthropology classes, helped me to understand the cultural backgrounds of my patients, allowing me to be a better healthcare professional.
What does giving back to Cornell mean to you?
As a first-generation student, I benefited from generous scholarship support that gave me the opportunity to attend college. It allowed me to carry out my vision as I intended because money didn’t become a limiting factor. I recently established a scholarship for students in the College of Arts and Sciences who are first-generation like me. I think it’s important to do my part to help other students on their educational journeys. I didn’t know I could use a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD)* to fund a scholarship until I talked to a giving officer in Cornell’s Alumni Affairs and Development office. It seemed like a significant way to help Cornell while simultaneously satisfying my annual Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from my IRA.
How have you gotten involved with Cornell recently?
I attended a Cornell’s Adult University (CAU) webinar on the art and design of Scandinavia. I thought they did a great job of covering the material. Some of the works and places featured were familiar to me, but some of it was new and very interesting. My partner and I were supposed to attend a trip to southern Chile and Patagonia, but that was canceled due to COVID-19. I hope to sign up for a trip soon! It’s always wonderful meeting alumni and their families.
*About QCDs: Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs), also known as IRA Charitable Rollovers, are a strategic way for individuals aged 70½ or older to use their IRAs to maximize their charitable impact. Learn more about the tax advantages of QCD-giving and other asset-based philanthropy on Cornell’s Gift Planning website.