The idea for this particular Quaker leadership endowment emerged in 1982 in St. Louis during a visit by Armand and Rachel (Pickett) Stalnaker with Wilmer Tjossem, then a representative of the American Friends Service committee. There was shared concern about a diminishing nurture of leadership talent among Friends, and regret that the example of the Picketts might be lost through neglect. Indispensable as our Quaker academic institutions are in equipping future leaders, the present commemorative effort supports yet other vital elements: the grassroots, hands-on concepts of service and investigative Quaker approaches to national and international ethical issues—inspired through the Pickett's example and rooted in our historic tradition.
In 1984 the Stalnakers and Tjossems together offered William Penn College (William Penn University as of January 2000) an initial $3,000 to begin leadership endowment in the names of Clarence and Lilly, both of whom were alumni of the University. This initiative immediately began striking responsive chords around the country.
In 1990 John Wagoner, President of William Penn University, asked his Board of Trustees to co-sponsor the Pickett Endowment. The Board approved and John and colleagues gave significant personal effort to initial funding and structuring. Also in 1990, a volunteer "Founding Group" met in Philadelphia to frame the Endowment's unique mission, and begin the daunting task of organizing major fund-raising. Representing the immediate Pickett family were Cully and Carolyn (Pickett) Miller, and Armand Stalnaker; from the University were John Wagoner and Doris Jean Newlin, then chairperson of the University board; and Stephen Cary and Wilmer Tjossem, AFSC retirees and one-time colleagues and friends of the Picketts. At this meeting the formal title was adopted: The Clarence and Lilly Pickett Fund for Quaker Leadership.* In 1991 the founders invited Kenneth and Elise Boulding, Leanore Goodenow, Elizabeth Jensen, Mary Hoxie Jones, Elton Trueblood, and Gilbert White to become an advisory council to the Endowment. A year later, Allen Bowman, a retired faculty member at William Penn University, was selected to coordinate all aspects of this memorial program.
In June, 1992 the Pickett Endowment was incorporated under the laws of Iowa. Following incorporation the founding group became trustees with Wilmer Tjossem name president, Steve Cary, vice president, and Allen Bowman secretary-treasurer. Though completely independent, the situs will remain at William Penn University in Oskaloosa, Iowa 52577, and the University will have a representative on the Endowment board. In 1993 the Pickett Endowment was granted 501(c)3 tax-exempt status by the IRS. The Friends Fiduciary Corporation of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of Friends agreed to manage the Endowment's capital. Through the generosity of donors from across the United States who admired the Picketts, The Clarence and Lilly Pickett Endowment for Quaker Leadership has grown to over $700,000. Pickett Endowment has made over 100 grants since the first grant was awarded to Sunu Chandy in 1994.
*On March 19, 2005 at its annual meeting the board of trustees agreed to a formal name change: The Clarence and Lilly Pickett Endowment for Quaker Leadership.