When Don Pearson walked into his BYU New Testament class in the early 1960s, he spotted a beautiful woman sitting on the other side of the room. The next time their class met, he made sure to sit next to her, and not long after, they went on a date to a BYU production of Romeo and Juliet.
“When I asked Ann out for a date the first time, I said it was Don calling, and she said, ‘Don who?’” Don remembers. “I’d forgotten I had another appointment, and I was discreet enough not to say I had another date. We got it rescheduled, and we really liked each other.”
Don and Ann both got As in New Testament and decided they made a good team. In 1965, Don graduated from BYU as his class valedictorian of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. He then graduated from Harvard Law three years later. He and Ann settled in Southern California, and Don was serving in the stake there when he learned of some young people who had the smarts but not the finances to get to college.
“I had received merit scholarships from BYU when I was a student,” he says. “And we also had people in our stake who owned homes and didn’t have any children. These people were willing to leave some part of their estate for a foundation that we created to help deserving students.”
Later, Don and Ann discovered the Signature Scholarship, which gave them a chance to help a student (or sometimes multiple students) in need and meet that student in person at a once-a-year luncheon. “Not all young people come with equal family resources—some come from broken homes, some from homes where neither parent has been to college, some from homes where a father or mother has lost employment or has medical issues, and even a few where one or both parents have passed away,” Don says. “I want to say how much I admire the recipients of Signature Scholarships. It’s nice to be helpful for some of these kids who don’t have as many advantages but who are doing everything they can to contribute to their communities and make their lives a success.”
Ann passed away two years ago from esophageal cancer, but Don has kept her legacy alive through creating an endowed scholarship in her name. And he still comes to BYU “maybe more frequently than [he] should be.”
“I’m kind of a big BYU fan,” he says. “It’s always fun to be on campus for football games or Education Week. And I love to come to the Signature Luncheon and hear the stories of students who speak. You feel their maturity and growth, and you can sense how humble and bright and talented they are.”