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Patricia Powell of Fresno.

The College of Health and Human Services at Fresno State received a pledge, estimated at $100,000, from the estate of Fresnan Patricia Powell. The gift will support students and their research.

Powell is donating in memory of her longtime friend and original owner of the estate, Faith Ann Searle, who died in 2010. After Searle’s death, Powell established the Faith Ann Searle Memorial Fund in her honor.

“Faith Ann felt that no student with promise should be denied the opportunity to pursue his or her educational dreams,” Powell said. “She was a lifelong educator who always encouraged others to strive for excellence and take on the dream of higher education. I felt it was appropriate to honor her memory by giving to the college.”

Searle did not have direct ties to Fresno State, but was a strong advocate of higher education. She earned five degrees during her lifetime — two bachelor’s degrees and three master’s degrees from the University of Southern California in music (1950), education (1954) and library science (1959).

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Ms. Faith Ann Searle.

After receiving her master’s in education, Searle spent four years teaching at colleges in the Midwest. Women’s roles in the United States at that time were in a transitional state, as many took on men’s jobs while they were away at war. When the war ended, many men resumed their positions and those jobs were no longer available to women. Searle lost her job, but took that as an opportunity to advance her education. She returned to her hometown of Pasadena and re-enrolled at USC, where she earned her master’s in library science.

She then worked for the Fresno County Library for 25 years, before retiring in the mid-1990s. It was at that time that Powell and Searle’s paths first crossed.

Nestled away in old Fig Garden, just down the street from the University House, is the charming sage green home that belonged to Searle since the 1970s. She led a relatively quiet and humble life, Powell said, and never married or had children. After a fall left Searle’s health at risk, Powell moved in and became her caretaker. Their relationship was so strong that Searle later officially adopted Powell as her daughter, a few years before her death.

“This fund is my way of keeping Faith Ann’s determined academic spirit alive in the generations to come,” Powell said. “This home was a gift to me, and it is only right that I gift it to others in her honor. I am simply paying forward the incredible generosity of Faith Ann, and I am confident my money will go to support programs with the greatest need and result in a positive, meaningful impact on society.”

Powell, a retired entrepreneur who founded Fresno’s Better Homes Real Estate Magazine, intends to split proceeds from the estate amongst five charities and organizations in Searle’s honor — including Fresno State.

The College of Health and Human Services is among the largest colleges at Fresno State, offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees in a variety of health care and human service fields.

“What is so inspirational about this gift is that it allows for Faith Ann’s passion for education and love of learning to live on in students who are pursuing careers in the health and human services field,” said Dr. Jody Hironaka-Juteau, interim dean of the college. “This gift will impact students who are active participants in research, and we are truly appreciative of Patricia Powell’s generosity.”

For more information, contact Dana Zupanovich Lucka at 559.278.3603.

The estate of Faith Ann Searle and Patricia Powell.