For more than 40 years, Norma Lee and Morton Funger, AA ’52, BA ’53, have had a profound impact on the George Washington University. Through the W. Scott Funger Memorial Scholarship, they are honoring their son, a man who affected everyone he met and whose legacy will touch the lives of generations to come.
Established in 2008 as the Funger Family Fund, the endowment was renamed in 2012 following the passing of their son, Scott, JD ’83, an accomplished lawyer, loving husband, and devoted father of three who lost his battle with pancreatic cancer.
“Scott loved to do everything,” says his mother. “He was a fisherman, he liked to mountain climb, bungee jump, and he could talk to anyone. We always said that Scott could talk to a tree and get the tree to answer.”
That connection to people, coupled with an independent spirit, drew him to start his own law firm focusing on criminal defense.
“I think he had a particular kinship to people who were in distress,” says Mrs. Funger. “Coming from an affluent family, it was good to see that our children were not so concerned with what they had, but they are concerned with and about other people.”
That empathy is shared by second-year GW Law student Marlene Wyatt, the first recipient of the W. Scott Funger Memorial Scholarship.
As an undergraduate at Texas A&M, the Abilene native double-majored in business honors and supply chain management and served as president of the university’s renowned Wiley Lecture Series.
“Aside from the novelty of meeting well-known political figures,” says Marlene, “the lecture series allowed me to delve into a variety of policy issues. The problem that occupied my thoughts most was the predictable, yet crippling, truth that a child living in poverty would likely never graduate college.”
She joined Teach For America and spent two years teaching second grade in Greenwood, Mississippi, a community in desperate need of more educators and administrative ethics. In 2013, it was revealed that a sister campus had cheated on state exams, the superintendent engaged in blatant nepotism, and the district failed a surprise state audit.
“These developments helped to convince me to attend law school to become fluent in the laws and processes that regulate education and other public entities,” says Marlene. “I think about my students often and am anticipating the day when I can apply my legal background to their educational benefit.”
In fact, Greenwood citizens still inspire her today. Marlene remembers the mother who worked evenings, yet made sure her child finished her homework; the grandmother who could barely walk with a cane, yet never missed a guardian-teacher conference; the grandfather who campaigned against domestic violence; and the First Baptist Church member who mentored teen mothers through Young Life.
Home for the summer, Marlene interned for Judge Thomas Wheeler, where she observed proceedings regarding child abuse, termination of parental rights, and horrific crimes witnessed by children.
“The internship greatly increased my understanding of what children can face when they head home from school each day,” says Marlene.
She applied that understanding this fall as she mentored Teach For America corps members in Washington, D.C. No matter which type of law she ultimately practices, education reform will remain her cause.
“I recently spoke with one of my former students who, despite me telling her how big the books are in law school, still wants to be an attorney,” Marlene says. “Conversations with former students remind me that we should not let the challenges facing American education intimidate us from finding their solutions.”
When she applied for early admission to GW, she crossed her fingers and was grateful to be accepted as a Presidential Merit Scholar and scholarship recipient.
“I wanted to attend GW because the government contracts program would utilize both my business degree and interest in the public sector,” says Ms. Wyatt. “The W. Scott Funger Memorial Scholarship has allowed me to study the law in the epicenter of federal policy, at a top university, with the financially viable option of remaining active in public service throughout my career.”
Which might ease some of the pain of the Fungers’ loss.
“If this scholarship can help some person who might not be able to go to GW for one reason or the other, it’s our pleasure and our duty to show that we can help,” says Mr. Funger. “And what better way of doing that than in Scott’s name?”
Marlene says, “I hope to one day emulate Scott in being both a successful attorney and a compassionate citizen.”
Endowments, like the W. Scott Funger Memorial Scholarship, create a permanent legacy for scholarships that will help generations of students at the George Washington University. Learn more about about how you can help support GW students at campaign.gwu.edu.