by Marcia Hill Gossard ’99, ’04 Ph.D.
Stretched out in front of the fireplace at their home in Edmonds, Washington, are “Wallis” and “Cole,” Tamara Morse’s recently adopted cats. “I have a soft spot for orange striped tabbies,” she says. Morse has had five orange tabbies since the 1980s. “I love their markings. It looks like someone painted them with a brush.”
Wallis and Cole, named after Morse’s late husband, were up for adoption at Seattle Humane just a few weeks after “Paprika,” her cat of 14 years, died. “I hadn’t thought about having two cats,” she says. But the house seemed quiet without her constant companion, Paprika, who had flown on at least 60 plane rides with Morse. “When I got the call that they were available for adoption, I told them I would be there within the hour.”
Morse, an active volunteer with Seattle Humane, serves on their Planned Giving Council. It was through her volunteer work that she first learned about the Humane Society Alliance Education Program partnership with Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “I was drawn to the WSU program with Seattle Humane,” says Morse. “What a perfect combination of education and helping animals.”
Through the program, WSU veterinary students spend two weeks at Seattle Humane. Students become more confident and skilled surgeons because they perform nearly 10 times the number of surgeries during their last year of veterinary school than they would have before the program began in 2013. Students also see a range of illnesses and injuries requiring diagnosis and treatment, which makes them better prepared to enter the workforce. “More than half our students, about 75 per year, go to Seattle Humane for a rotation,” says Bryan Slinker, dean of the college. “Over the course of a two-week rotation, each student will perform 25–30 spay and neuter surgeries.”
“It is important for students to get the best education they can,” says Morse. “This program sets them apart from the average veterinary medicine students.”
The Road to WSU
Morse grew up 2,000 miles from Washington State University in West Lafayette, Indiana. The daughter of a mechanical engineering professor at Purdue, she was raised to value the importance of education and real-world life experience.
She earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in education from Purdue and taught for several years before going back to school to earn an MBA in 1978. Morse moved to Seattle that same year, and it was then she first met WSU alumnus Wallis Cole (’43) while they were both working at Chevron.
Cole grew up in Pullman where his father was a professor of chemistry. He attended WSU and earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture, human, and natural resource sciences. Cole married his first wife, Betty Lou and they had three sons together, Wallis Jr., Richard, and Randal.
After Betty Lou’s death in the early 1990s, Cole picked up the phone to call Morse. “We had known each other from work. He called and asked me out for dinner and the rest was history,” says Morse. “A great love story.” Cole and Morse were married nearly 17 years before Cole’s death in 2009.
Although her allegiance with Indiana is still strong, after nearly four decades in Washington state, Morse admits she started thinking of herself as a Washingtonian. “I have never lived anywhere that long,” she says. “The state of Washington has been really good to me, so I thought why not do something for animals and Washington state.”
“You don’t have to be a WSU grad to benefit WSU.”
Morse was formally adopted as a Cougar in December 2017. This special recognition is given to those who exhibit “Cougar Spirit” and genuine loyalty and affection for WSU.
“Wally would have been very pleased to know that I have room in my heart to be a Purdue Boilermaker and a Cougar,” she says.
A Lasting Legacy
More than 30 years ago in 1986, Morse founded a successful financial planning business, and she has been running it single handedly ever since. “My first clients were retirees I had known from Chevron,” she says. Today, Morse still serves some of her earliest clients and also the children of many of her clients, making it a multigenerational business. “I have been very fortunate in my life.”
Morse says there are hundreds of organizations that she could have given to, but the program with WSU and Seattle Humane brought together her love of animals and the values instilled in her: the importance of education and real-world experience.
So, much as she’s advised many of her own clients, she decided to leave an estate gift naming the college in her will. “You have to think about the footprint you are going to leave and align it with your passions,” she says. “Deferred giving is a comfortable way to leave an impact.”
While she is still devoted to Purdue, she knows her loyalties can be in two places. “Wally’s sons told me that their dad would be really pleased if he knew I had given to WSU,” she says. “You don’t have to be a WSU grad to benefit WSU.”