The Scott & Betsy Thornton Foundation Challenges UNP to ‘Think Big’

Over the past few years, Betsy Thornton, of the Scott W. and Betsy D. Thornton Family Foundation, has been talking with University Neighborhood Partners (UNP) about its emerging work, mainly its education pathways partnerships housed at the UNP Hartland Partnership Center. Betsy’s ongoing interest in the center was fueled by stories she’s heard from individuals who have been deeply engaged with UNP. These stories have painted the center as a model of starting where people are in their lives, focusing on whole families, and investing in relationships over time to support educational pathways.

After supporting the build-out of a community room in the center in 2017, Betsy encouraged UNP to“think big”about what the organization might need to keep moving its work forward. Then, in April 2018, on Betsy’s recommendation, UNP applied for support from the foundation for the center’s work.

Upon reviewing UNP’s initial proposal, Betsy thanked UNP for the time and effort in educating both her and Scott about the center, saying, “We are working on our end to educate ourselves… not only on your proposal, but also as to where and who we are as donors, and how we can best make an impact.” The couple then asked UNP if they would be willing to collaborate on the nature of the proposal so their gift could be truly transformational for UNP.

After active discussions over the next several months between Betsy and Scott, their daughter-in-law Carly Thornton, and representatives from UNP, the couple committed to a three-year gift. The group collaborated on the vision and goals of what would become the Hartland Education Pathways Initiative. The group brainstormed the best way to effectively communicate the initiative and established the following language: “The UNP Hartland Partnership Center is an educational hub and launching point where west side youth and adults can pursue their greatest potential. The goal is for more residents to access higher education and come back to their communities as professionals and leaders. UNP brings university and community groups into the space to build relationships and offer programs in academics, arts, health, social development, professional skills, and leadership development.”

Jennifer Mayer-Glenn, UNP’s director and special assistant to the president for Campus-Community Partnerships at the U, shared, “I appreciate the community that is built at the UNP Hartland Partnership Center. I recently heard families from the community talk about feelings of isolation, even in this urban area. I felt proud to know that staff from Hartland’s Youth Center already make home visits to build relationships with the families of the children that participate in the after-school program. Everyone benefits from this experience. Families are invited to participate in other educational opportunities, staff learn from families and use the knowledge to improve programming, and university faculty and researchers engage with and learn from a community coming together. The center is a powerful environment that is changing lives. This would not be possible if it were not for the generous support of the Thornton family. We are so grateful and excited about this gift and its impact on west side communities as a whole.”

Learn more about University Neighborhood Partners and the Hartland Partnership Center at