Longtime Bowling Green resident gives $100K for scholarships

Clare Lowther

Rosella Isbell is generally a private person, shying away from the glare of publicity. She keeps to herself and doesn’t seem to want acclaim for her actions.

But some of Isbell’s recent actions – two donations to Western totaling $100,000 – have brought her into the public eye.

Sixteen Western students will benefit from Isbell’s donations and receive full or partial scholarships this year.

The first donation of $50,000 was given specifically to the nursing department. The second donation will establish the Rosella and Calvin Isbell Alumni Leadership Scholarship for four students outside of the department.

These new annual scholarships are given to Kentucky residents who meet specified academic and financial qualifications.

Isbell gave the money to Western three months ago, but only recently decided to go public with her donation.

Isbell’s long-time friend, Bowling Green resident Bob Kirby, said this recent donation was the latest in a series of philanthropic actions by Isbell.

“She’s done a lot of things to help people,” he said. “She’s done many other charitable things for other (groups) besides the university.”

Isbell is a lifelong resident of Bowling Green and long-time supporter of Western. She and her late husband Calvin attended the Bowling Green Business University before entering the hotel business in 1954.

Isbell ran several local hotels with her husband before retiring after 47 years in the business.

“(Our profession) was very enjoyable,” Isbell said. “We like people.”

The couple previously made substantial donations to the university, particularly to the hotel and lodging program, and were fans of Western’s basketball team, having attended games from the time they were in high school.

“Mrs. Isbell and her husband were big time supporters of Western, particularly of the basketball program. They were long-time ticket holders,” said Tom Hiles, vice president of Institutional Advancement.

Isbell was inspired to donate to the nursing program when her niece was forced to drop out of nursing school because of circumstances beyond her control.

She talked to the staff of the nursing program and felt they could benefit from the money.

Nursing department head Donna Blackburn said Isbell has been a “friend” of the nursing department for a long time.

“I know that she has a real interest in nursing, and she just wanted to help,” Blackburn said. “(These scholarships) will benefit students the most. It will help them buy books, pay for classes and everything else they need.”

Reach Clare Lowther at [email protected]