About ICSF

ICSF is an autonomous body whose 18 directors are elected from the ecumenical membership of Church Women United in Southern California/Southern Nevada. All directors serve without compensation and volunteer their time and talents to achieve the goals of ICSF.

Board List 2017

Since its founding in 1955, ICSF has made college and university education a reality for hundreds of women and men. Doctors, nurses, teachers, ministers, and leaders trained in many other helping professions are enabled to serve in their own countries and abroad.

2016 ICSF Partner School Websites



ICSF was founded in 1955 by Elsie Farris, the first woman to practice law in Long Beach, CA. She was a world traveler, elsieferris1981_portraitphilanthropist, involved community member, and a leader in the United Church of Christ.

Elsie Farris was born on June 22, 1903, in Fortuna, California.  Not much is known of her early years other than that her parents were not churchgoers.  Her college work was done in Oregon, and she trained for a teaching career in history, math and Latin at the high school level. Soon she moved to Long Beach, CA, working at a bank in the daytime and studying law at night.

She passed the California State Bar examination and found out that no local law firm would hire a woman lawyer. So, with her last one hundred dollars in the bank, she set up her own practice.  She specialized in probate law and estate planning. In her first three years, she didn’t lose a single case.  She holds the distinction of being the very first woman lawyer with a private office in Long Beach.  She retired in 1981 after 54 years of active practice.

When she was establishing the International Christian Scholarship Foundation (ICSF) as a project of Church Women United, she was able to draw many women from different denominations to give of their time and treasures for scholarships in different parts of the world. She served as president of the Long Beach Council of Churches and spoke in churches all over the state and the country.  She donated all her speaking honoraria to ICSF.  As a lawyer, she was able to persuade many of her clients to set aside a portion of their estates toward enabling students to purse their college, seminary or medical careers.

Elise Farris became a dedicated church leader in the United Church of Christ (UCC).  For a number of years she was a member of what is now called the Wider Church Ministries of the UCC.  In that capacity she traveled all over the world, sowing seeds of service by educating college-age young people, preparing them for leadership in church and community. She once held the second highest office in the UCC – that of Vice Moderator for the entire national church.

People who worked with Elsie, in her law office and on the ICSF Board, held her in very high esteem.  Edna High served as Elsie’s secretary for nearly 40 years.  Edna said, “She was not only my employer, she was my friend.  She was one of the greatest…she was a very humble person and did not wish to take credit for all her generosity and kindnesses. She touched so many lives.” ICSF Board members also remember her concern for each one of them and her zeal for educating as many students as possible.  In 1956, ICSF apportioned $19,322 among 42 students.  In 1987 a total of $113,993 was given to 67 students. As of 2004, over 230 students receive $116,880 in 27 colleges, seminaries and medical school in 17 countries abroad.

Elsie Farris died in September 1987 at age 85. She has left a legacy that will remain in the lives of thousands who have received ICSF scholarships. She has also passed on a heritage of “Sponsoring Students for Service Around the World.”  This ICSF motto is heeded by Board Members and many others who do what they can to make Elsie Farris’ dream of serving the people of God in Jesus Christ a continuing reality.

– Divina Himaya

The link below is to a PDF file of an article about Elsie’s story entitled “Candle-lighter Extraordinary”:

Elsie Farris article


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