Quarterly Donor Spotlight- Gerrie Bjornson
Occasionally, a little luck can make all the difference. For students obtaining their degrees on scholarship, they feel incredibly fortunate to have been awarded such a precious gift. Thankful for the opportunity to further their education, these students feel like the luckiest individuals on campus.
Gerrie Bjornson is such an alumna who lucked into a scholarship. As a recipient of the Business and Professional Women’s Club of Huntington Scholarship, Gerrie was grateful for the financial support. Marshall is a family tradition for the Bjornson’s. Gerrie’s sister, two brothers and their wives, niece and nephew are all proud Marshall Alumni.
“We all worked and paid our own way through school,” explained Gerrie, adding that one of her brothers attended on his G.I. Bill.
While attending Marshall, Gerrie worked as a secretary for the Insurance Department of the State of West Virginia, a job she said she also lucked into.
“I think it would have taken me longer to finish school if not for the fact that I had a renewable scholarship and was able to go straight through school,” Gerrie said. “I knew how fortunate I was to be able to depend on that (scholarship) and relax and know it was there as long as I upheld my end of the deal.”
While Gerrie was initially uncertain of her college major, she always had an interest in politics. Upon graduating from Marshall, she moved to Washington, D.C., with three other graduates of Marshall and spent two weeks interviewing on Capitol Hill.
“My first job was with a congressman from California. It was not a perfect fit, but was a good first job,” said Gerrie, who worked for six years on Capitol Hill before accepting a position in private industry as a lobbyist. “It was a time when there were few women in the government relations field and there was absolutely no networking for them.” Gerrie was one of twelve women who founded Women in Government Relations, an organization committed to the professional and educational development of women in the field. Today there are over 600 members.
“You can’t progress and be successful without networking,” she said.
After 42 years in Washington, Gerrie returned to West Virginia. “I have always been proud to be a West Virginian and especially proud of being a Marshall graduate. Washington was my career location, but West Virginia was always my home. The people here are so warm, giving and caring,” she explained.
True to those kind and giving roots, Gerrie recently established a scholarship in memory of her late mother, the Nora M. Bjornson Scholarship for Lewis College of Business students.
Nora Bjornson was always an advocate for education, instilling in her children the importance of a strong work ethic and a generous heart. Her mantra was, “you do not want to depend on anyone. You want to stand on your own two feet and this is how you accomplish your goal.”
“I know everyone thinks their mother is the most loving and generous person in the world, and I am no different,” said Gerrie. “My mother used to say, ‘you can be anything you want to be’ and I believed her. I would never have been able to pursue my career without my mom’s belief in me and her support.
A strong, humble and caring woman, Nora was described as the core of her children’s universe. She was a huge fan of Marshall academics and athletics. She helped countless Marshall students, whether it be by providing housing, offering a meal, or simply providing support when needed. She was available for everyone.
Through the Nora M. Bjornson Scholarship, Gerrie hopes to be a resource for Marshall students, to encourage them to go out and see the world and promote Marshall University, and shine a positive light on West Virginia.
“My mom would be honored to know that she continues to touch students’ lives with this scholarship,” said Gerrie. “It is a real privilege to be able to repay support in kind by helping to provide for generations behind us.”
For questions about a student’s eligibility for the Nora M. Bjornson Scholarship, please contact the dean’s office of the Lewis College of Business.