United Way, Nordstrom Honor Blake Nordstrom With Basic Needs Scholarship

By United Way of King County, on January 21, 2022 | In Breaking the Cycle of Poverty, Champions, Events, Helping Students Graduate, Volunteering

United Way of King County and Nordstrom will honor the department store chain’s late vice president and community leader with an annual multi-year, basic needs scholarship as part of our Bridge to Finish program, CEO Gordon McHenry, Jr. said on Friday.

Speaking at the unveiling of Blake Nordstrom’s bronze shoeprints and signature at the Nordstrom Seattle Walk of Fame, McHenry said United Way will bolster its already robust program by providing 20 students with $5,000 scholarships annually in his name. Blake Nordstrom passed away in 2019.

The Bridge to Finish scholarships will cover essential basic needs, such as housing and food, for highly under-resourced students at 10 college campuses across King County.

Bridge to Finish supports college students so they can focus on graduating. Each Bridge to Finish location offers services that include one-time emergency grants, housing support, tax help, food pantries and financial coaching.

Said McHenry: “When you think about all the things we’ve been going through these past several years, how difficult it is financially for many of us. This scholarship is intended to help those students stay in school and persist in school. So, when they have needs of a financial nature, they get the support of this scholarship, the support of United Way.”

“The majority of students attending college or living at or below the poverty line,” McHenry added. “The majority are students of color. Many of them are raising families. Many are the first in their families to go to college. This is an opportunity to do something very specific and very intentional and very thoughtful by the Nordstroms and help move this community forward.”

The great-grandson of the co-founder of the Nordstrom department store chain’s co-founder, Blake Nordstrom was a business and community leader who, along with his wife Molly, served as co-chair of United Way’s major gift efforts for six years. While the Nordstrom family has always been close to United Way, Blake was a tireless champion for the community and particularly passionate about supporting our neighbors experiencing homelessness. He also spoke at events for Emerging Leaders and leadership donors, and he always shared how giving back had shaped both the company and his family.

“Every day at United Way we look for a moment of inspiration,” McHenry said. “Today, I am incredibly inspired and grateful. Our partnership [with Nordstrom] goes back decades. I can’t think of better friends and our friends at Nordstrom, the family and the corporation.”

United Way of King County CEO Gordon McHenry, Jr. with Peter Nordstrom and Erik Nordstrom

Blake Nordstrom was honored at Nordstrom’s Sixth Avenue corporate entrance sidewalk, an area where its popular Seattle Walk of Fame is placed. Nordstrom created the Walk of Fame in 1998 when it moved its headquarters and flagship store to the current location. Nordstrom commissioned the Public Arts Workshop (formerly known as the Cleveland Arts Foundry) to create the public artwork to honor Seattle icons from different fields.

The Walk of Fame currently comprises 33 honorees, each with bronze shoeprints, a plaque commemorating their achievements and the individual’s signature. Honorees include Quincy Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Ken Griffey Jr., Ruby Chow, Paul Allen and Bill Gates. Blake’s Walk of Fame collection also includes his mantra, “Extend Yourself.”

“We have community leaders, we have politicians, sports stars and musicians, and on and on,” said Blake’s brother Erik Nordstrom. “Our brother … is clearly not the most famous person that’s going to be this Walk of Fame. But I dare say that there is not one other person here that made more of an impact on people than my brother Blake did.”


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