Full Circle – The Bowen family transforms a tragic loss into an enduring legacy. The Bowen family transforms a tragic loss into an enduring legacy.

When Ana Bowen and Rosa Lardenoit presented a gift of $100,000 to Chapman University from the estate of their late brother Joaquin “Jay” Cuetara, the moment was bittersweet. The gift supports the Matthew Bowen Memorial Scholarship endowment in memory of Ana and Mark’s son and Jay and Rosa’s nephew, who died in a traffic accident during his freshman year at Chapman in 2003.

After Matthew’s passing, Ana and her husband, Mark, began brainstorming ways to honor Matthew’s memory. Knowing that Matthew could never have attended Chapman without his Presidential Scholarship, Mark suggested creating a scholarship in his name. After Mark passed away, Cuetara led the charge by gathering his family’s gifts, which were matched by his company, IBM, to establish the Matthew Bowen Memorial Scholarship endowment in 2004. The goal was simple: transform Matthew’s death into a powerful opportunity to aid and inspire future Chapman students.

“Family is everything. It’s our Cuban ideals,” Ana Bowen said. “We would all attend Matthew’s varsity baseball and football games. We even went to the practices; he didn’t mind.”

Understanding the benefits of legacy planning, Cuetara encouraged his entire family to include Chapman in their estate plans. One by one, family members included Chapman in their will or living trust, among them Matthew’s parents, Mark and Ana Bowen, and his aunt and uncles, Kris and Rosa Lardenoit and Cuetara. Their generosity will have a powerful impact on current and future Chapman students.

Ana Bowen, center, spends a moment with Nikki Morgan ’16 and Kyle Mendoza ’16, recipients of Matthew Bowen Memorial Scholarships. Bowen holds a photo of Matthew, her son, who died in a traffic accident in 2003, his freshman year at Chapman.

After a difficult journey with cancer, Cuetara passed away in December 2013. It gave him great pride to know that current students at Chapman University were benefiting from the generosity of his family and so many others who knew and loved Matthew. In fact, the scholarship has been awarded 24 times since it was established in 2004. With the addition of Cuetara’s estate gift, the endowment supporting the scholarship has more than doubled. Cuetara’s philanthropic spirit and kind heart will long be remembered by his family and the Chapman community.

After handing the check to then-President Jim Doti in 2014, Ana Bowen and Rosa Lardenoit sat across the table from then students Kyle Mendoza ’16 and Nikki Morgan ’16, two of the Matthew Bowen Memorial Scholarship recipients. Coincidentally, both are from Yorba Linda, where Matthew grew up and lived with his family.

“You are going to graduate from this wonderful University,” Ana proudly told the students, who would do just that in 2016. “It would have been great if Matthew had graduated.”

Morgan shared that scholarship support through the endowed fund helped to make her Chapman experience possible, including an opportunity to study abroad in Spain.

Mendoza was just as grateful.

“My family’s home was foreclosed upon the year I was looking into colleges,”  he said. “I didn’t think college was a possibility for me.”

Although Matthew Bowen’s life and dream of joining his uncle Kris’s law practice as an attorney were tragically cut short, Mark and Ana’s vision, bolstered by their family’s financial and emotional support, has transformed their loss into a legacy filled with promise for generations of Chapman students. Through their ongoing support and commitments for the future, Matthew’s family has become a part of the Chapman Family.

“Never before in the history of Chapman University has an entire family come together with estate gifts to maximize support for a single endowed scholarship,” stated President Emeritus Doti. “This is a true testament of their strength as a family, and it is recognition of Matthew’s love for Chapman University. It’s as if each of these students is building upon Matthew’s legacy. Learning about Matt and his incredible family will inspire their success.”

For information about including Chapman in your will or living trust, contact David Moore, assistant vice president of legacy planning, at (714) 516-4590 or dmoore@chapman.edu. He can also assist with inquiries about memorial gifts, endowments and more.

This story appeared in the fall 2017 issue of Chapman Magazine.

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