Why I give: A couple’s WSU experience leads to lifelong donations

Monica and Don Peters' wedding portrait on Sept. 1, 1967 (left) and their 50th anniversary portrait in 2017 (right).
Monica and Don Peters' wedding portrait on Sept. 1, 1967 (left) and their 50th anniversary portrait in 2017 (right).

It was 1964 in Pullman, and just under 10,000 students attended WSU. 

Two of those students were Monica Bartlett and Don Peters, who were in awe of the campus compared to their small Washington hometowns of Tekoa and Pasco, respectively. 

Monica, whose high school graduating class was 26 people, said she loved everything about college, from her social dancing classes to the massive lecture halls. She was not homesick at all. 

“It was quite a change,” she said. “It was totally foreign to me, but I was excited.”

Monica and Don met the week before classes began on the first night they arrived in Pullman. Don’s roommate was a good friend of Monica’s from Tekoa, and they all introduced each other at the Compton Union Building. 

“He was tall,” Monica said. 

Monica Bartlett and Don Peters pose the night they received a pin from the WSU Army ROTC, Oct. 8, 1965.

“And she was cute!” Don said. 

Fifty-nine years later and settled in Pullman, Monica and Don continue to donate to the WSU Libraries, giving back to the university that sparked their love for lifelong learning and each other. 

Monica, who studied French and education at WSU, said libraries receive less funding from private donations and state budgets compared to sports, but research developed through WSU Libraries is essential for the university. 

She often uses the microfilm reader in Holland Library, searching through old newspaper articles for her clients at the Whitman County Genealogical Society. Monica began her research work about 25 years ago. 

“They’re looking for their roots,” she said. “I think it’s really important for people to know from whence they came and from whom they came.”

The project closest to Monica’s heart remains the research she compiled on her family history. She finished a book on their history in 2021. She’s made of “pioneer stock,” with early family members traveling west by wagon train on the Oregon Trail to arrive in Washington. 

Don, who earned a degree in communications, fondly recalls memories of visiting the Owen Science and Engineering Library during lunch breaks, paging through technical journals when he started college as an electrical engineering major.

“We value the education we received here, and the libraries were a part of that,” Don said. “We just want to ensure those resources are available for current generations and beyond.”

Lasting memories

Don remembers joining the Cougar Marching Band his first semester as a tenor saxophone player. He became the middle peak of the “W” as the band marched across the football field spelling out “WSU,” feeling exhilarated as he stood across from the roaring student section. 

He lived in Goldsworthy Hall, 50 yards from Monica in McAllister Hall. 

In Monica’s junior year, she moved into the brand-new Stephenson Hall North on the eighth floor, where she and her roommate were excited to find they had a phone in their room. Otherwise, she said they would have had to share two phones with an entire floor of women, sticking to a 10-minute call limit.

Monica Bartlett and Don Peters attend the WSU Military Ball, March 1966.

“We thought we were pretty uptown,” she said. 

Before Monica and Don’s senior year, they married and later had their son. Still a full-time student, Monica took two courses and taught French and Spanish at Colfax High School as a student teacher. 

When the pair graduated from WSU in February 1969, Don was commissioned as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army, with Monica pinning his lieutenant’s bars onto his uniform during the ceremony. 

Leaving the Cougar den

When Don arrived in Vietnam in June 1970, he was placed into the American Forces Vietnam Network in Quy Nhon, helping run radio and television for troops. 

“I had a good job in Vietnam,” he said. “I didn’t get shot at too much either.”

His detachment broadcast Top 40 music on AM radio and American shows on FM radio, classical and easy-listening music on FM radio, and U.S. network television shows on TV, which were transmitted from film. Don said he credits his “good job” in Vietnam to his experience as an Edward R. Murrow College of Communication alum. 

At WSU, Don worked as a student engineer for KWSU Radio/Television and as a board operator for KWSU-TV on nights and weekends. He remembers pulling an all-nighter to replace a television transmitter so the station could avoid being off the air, he said. 

While Don was in Vietnam, Monica moved back to Tekoa with the couple’s 3-week-old and 2-year-old. There, she launched her 42-year career of private piano lessons, teaching students for three hours after school, she said. 

In 1974, Monica and Don returned to Pullman when Don joined the staff of Northwest Public Broadcasting. They also began work on their master’s degrees in measurement and evaluation and adult and continuing education, respectively. They graduated five years later. 

“Everybody in Pullman’s very well educated, and why wouldn’t we want to keep up with that trend?” Monica said. 

Today, the couple plan to stay healthy and continue traveling. Monica and Don have visited 70 countries, such as Nepal, Monica’s favorite. Monica is eager to check new places off of her bucket list, including the Norwegian fjords and the Galápagos Islands. 

“I love to see new places, [and I’m] always wondering what’s around the next bend and what’s over the next hill,” she said.