Max Pitts is impossible to characterize in just a few words. His family and friends describe him as a loyal, fun-loving, social butterfly. He was a Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity member and a basketball and football fan. He also had a passion for streetwear and fashion, leading him to pursue a bachelor’s degree in apparel merchandising through Washington State University’s Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design, and Textiles (AMDT).
“The AMDT department was the reason he wanted to attend college at all, and it was why he ended up choosing WSU,” said Max’s mother, Lynn Pitts. “It made us so happy that he was pursuing something he was so excited about.”
Though Max frequently appeared upbeat to those who knew him, he also had depression. In 2022, just weeks before he would’ve graduated, Max took his own life.
To honor their son’s memory, Lynn and her husband, Paris, established the Max Pitts Memorial AMDT Endowed Scholarship for students in the department who have declared their major and are passionate about their field of study, regardless of financial need.
“Max’s enthusiasm for fashion and business made him a perfect fit for the program,” said AMDT Department Chair Ting Chi. “This scholarship aims to empower aspiring individuals who share Max’s fervor for fashion, enabling them to unlock their full potential through the AMDT major.”
“This scholarship honors an amazing individual and a kind soul, and it’s one way to keep Max’s laughter and memory alive,” added Shanna Hiscock, Max’s AMDT advisor. “I hope that each scholarship recipient will learn a little bit about who Max was.”
Because it takes a year for an endowed scholarship to start paying out, the Pitts self-funded the first award, which went to Max’s close friend, Savannah Carter.
“It was important to us that the scholarship start with a group of people Max knew, but we didn’t have any input regarding who it went to,” Lynn said. “It was a total surprise and really special to have Savannah be the first recipient.”
Carter used the funds to attend an AMDT study tour in Los Angeles, where she and other students spent a week networking and visiting the headquarters of fashion giants like Vans, Speedo, and Savage X Fenty.
“I tried to turn the scholarship down because I had already paid tuition for my final semester,” said Carter, who graduated in spring 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in apparel merchandising. “It meant a lot because I knew Max personally, and it was rewarding to benefit from the funds while honoring him. I knew he would’ve wanted me to have it.”
Carter and Max met through an introductory AMDT class and Max’s fraternity. When classes went online during the pandemic, they developed an even closer friendship, texting daily and sharing music.
“He was a very sweet person,” Carter said. “He was sometimes reserved, but when you saw him with his friends, he lit up a room. He was really goofy and always wanted to have fun. Everybody loved being around him.”
Carter is happy the scholarship will honor her friend while providing substantial support to the AMDT department.
“There’s a lot of development and growth within our major,” Carter said. “It’s exciting that this scholarship will help students go on trips like I did or pay for their tuition. Max had a bright future, and I know the recipients will carry on that legacy.”
The scholarship has already hit the $50,000 mark, and Lynn and Paris hope to raise $100,000 over the next decade. As the endowment grows, so will the amount awarded to students.
In addition to helping students reach their academic goals, Lynn is using her son’s memory to spread awareness about the importance of mental health and the help that is available to those who need it.
“We shouldn’t shy away from the fact that Max had depression,” Lynn said. “It’s so important to acknowledge that students sometimes struggle with their mental health. At Max’s vigil, I spoke about the resources available, whether it’s the campus counseling center or the national suicide prevention line.”