John C. Beckman and his wife Patricia may appear to be obsessed with the number 9, judging from their donation of $9,999.99 to establish the Brian Doyle Scholarships for Gentle & Sidelong Humor at the University of Portland. Their gift, however, is really all about the number 3, since that total will be divided among three $3,333.33 scholarships in honor of Doyle, a living writer and poet.
Both numbers are significant to Beckman, he tells The Chronicle of Higher Education. The 92-year-old alum credits a monk and math teacher named Brother Godfrey who once told him about 9's unique mathematical properties more than 70 years ago. That revelation led Beckman to adopt an affinity for 3, since it is 9's square root.
The humor surrounding the scholarship is not lost on the donors, and comedy in projects such as film and comic books will be considered as University of Portland undergraduates apply for the funds. There is another elegance to the total as well, however, since it commemorates the impact that a teacher's words can have after more than half a century.