Ask Bea Kent of Tacoma why she chose to leave a significant gift to
Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and you’ll get
an answer as pragmatic as the successful businesswoman is. "I like animals,"
she says matter-of-factly.
Her relationship with pets began as a child in Southern California. She
recalls when she was only about nine years old her family had a dog. "It was
a little white dog with a black eye. It eventually developed distemper and
had to be shot out in the backyard. I never owned another animal until
Kent said animals today provide her with unconditional love, "So long as
I feed them roasted chicken and I only feed them once a day—all day," she
quipped. All Kent’s animals are still with her, either begging for her
chicken in the kitchen or cremated, buried, and properly remembered in her
Likewise, Kent is remembering the veterinary college even though she
never attended WSU. Her generous gift is designated as a life income trust,
an irrevocable gift unlike a simple bequest but similar in that it will come
after her death. "I’m not on an ego trip," she explained," I just know that
this is where the money will do the most good. I established endowments in
animal disease research, teaching hospital operations, and scholarships
because I wanted to see kids who are trying to make progress in their lives
and who love animals have an opportunity."
Kent made her success in life earning every bit of it with healthy doses
of calculated risks and determination. In 1964 after a failed marriage, she
taught herself to be a meticulous bookkeeper and later worked for an
accountant. Among the accounts she oversaw was a mobile home park. One day
she asked if a single woman could do something like that. The answer was a
qualified "yes" from some and a flat "no" from others. Ignoring the
naysayers, it took her five years but she eventually bought a mobile home
park in Tacoma.
"As a single woman, it was very hard to do what I’ve done in the times
that I did it," she explained. Rejected for business credit so many times,
Kent eventually began to use the initial "B" for her first name in hopes she
might be accepted before lenders realized she was a woman. "I remember the
first company that ever gave me credit in 1965—Chevron—and I still carry
their card to this day," she said.
By 1991, Kent paid off her park that specializes in senior citizen
residents and especially those with pets. Twice a year she takes extended
travels to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where she sets up a small barter booth
on the beach. In her retirement she says she wants to keep her hand in
renovating and reselling mobile homes. And for others who may have the means
to give Kent has some simple advice.
"Give consideration for what your money can do for the youth of today."