Roberta “Bobbie” League (’70) is a Zag who has devoted her life to making a difference for others. Driven by a love of humanity that was formed by her family and developed at Gonzaga, League is an exemplar of what Jesuit education and the Gonzaga community can do.
When she attended Gonzaga in the late 1960s, her tuition bills came to just $2,500 a year. Her father helped to pay for her and her three siblings’ educations, but insisted that they work through school.
“It was a lot of money back then,” she said, “but Dad worked hard and he was a saver. We were told from the beginning that we’d have jobs in the summer and the whole time we were in college, so as soon as I got to campus, I got a job with Sodexo.”
The hard work paid off, as Bobbie, her brother and her two sisters all finished college without debt. She was even able to attend Gonzaga-In-Florence in the fourth class to cross the Atlantic. It was during her GIF experience that Bobbie got a taste for what was to come in a future career. She wrote home from Italy every day, and her mother complimented her on her writing.
“I had some disabilities of my own growing up,” she said. “I wasn’t good in math and I didn’t think I was a very good writer, but when I wrote home from Florence, my mother would tell me ‘you write such wonderful letters and postcards!’ I thought, ‘really?’ Yet, you just never know where life’s going to take you.”
League never had to rely on scholarships for her Gonzaga education, and she considers herself fortunate for that. Looking at more recent students, who leave GU carrying weighty debt-loads, League feels compelled to help. She took a job advising students seeking education or counseling certifications from the School of Education at Gonzaga in 1989, where she saw first-hand the need for scholarships.
“Students would tell me they were tens of thousands of dollars in debt,” said League, shaking her head in disbelief. “Many of them were single mothers, coming back to get a teaching certificate so they could provide for their families — they were living on four or five hundred dollars a month. They had to have gas to get here, pay rent for shelter — it made me feel very blessed and fortunate, and it made me feel bad.”
League’s family had always stressed the importance of giving back. Her parents were very generous and philanthropic, instilling the same values in their children. The giving spirit ran deeply in League, who now feels very passionate about supporting scholarships at Gonzaga.
“In this day and age, the expense of coming to a private, Jesuit, Catholic university is tremendous,” she said. “I’m not a terribly wealthy individual, but I believe in giving back — I want my dollars to go toward helping students through scholarships. I don’t know the students I’m helping, but you never know what their lives could end up being and what opportunities you can create here. It comes down to what I learned from the Jesuits, which was to question everything, and that if I could do anything to make somebody else’s life better or easier, I should do it.”
The lessons League learned from her own Gonzaga experience carried over into her career. She served her fellow staff members at Gonzaga as the first president of the Staff Assembly and worked tirelessly in service of GU students. The impact she had on those with whom she worked was undeniable and it affected people for years to come. One day, while visiting her local post office, League was stopped by a woman who was on her way out.
“Hi Bobbie,” the woman said. “I’m sure you don’t remember me, but 20 years ago you got me through the certification program at Gonzaga University. I’ve gone on to a marvelous teaching career because of you.”
League was floored.
“After I got a good look at her, I did remember!” she exclaimed. “But, you see, I was just doing my job. It goes to show that you can’t possibly know how you’ll affect someone — 20 years later, to stop me in the post office — I told her, ‘thank you so much for stopping me and telling me!’ Often times, you just don’t know if what you’ve done or give really has an impact on someone’s life. It’s amazing that it does.”
League carried forward her spirit of helping others into her roles at St. Anne’s Children and Family Center and the Spokane Guilds’ School. Through assessment, therapy, education and support, the Guilds’ School helps Spokane families who have children with disabilities — these families stole League’s heart, and fed her appetite for serving others. They also inspired her to dust off her writing talents. After several years on the advisory board for the Guilds’ School, she took on the role of a planned giving officer, helping to inspire gifts to the school through donors’ estate plans. With a drive and creativity that stemmed from her Gonzaga education, League was determined to make a difference. Her first step was to begin telling the stories of the people who supported the Guilds’ school.
“They asked me to write a Leaving a Legacy articles, but wills and trusts? That’s dry stuff!” she laughed. “I said, ‘if you trust me, I’m going to go in a different direction,’ and I started writing about the people.”
Her unique approach paid off, inspiring thousands in gifts over the years. She was motivated every day by the spirit of giving among the people she met. She knew their gifts made a bigger difference than they could ever imagine — just as her gifts in support of Gonzaga scholarships have an impact on the lives of current and future Zags.
The ways in which Bobbie League has done and continues to do for others is truly inspiring. Every minute she spent helping, every dollar she has given, every time she thought about what more she could do — her commitment to the Gonzaga and Spokane communities will surely change the world, putting Bobbie League truly in a league of her own.
If you would like to join Bobbie in supporting Gonzaga students through scholarships, visit gonzagawill.com/giveonline to make a gift today.