- Associated Press - Friday, December 2, 2016

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - The University needs money - always has needed it - always will.

Legislative appropriations have never been sufficient to meet those needs - never will be.

There are private funds available to supplement but not supplant appropriations from the State - but they must be sought.

In the 1930s, those statements appeared on a leaflet promoting the Kansas University Endowment Association, on file in the University of Kansas Spencer Research Library.

Some things haven’t changed.

KU Endowment, the country’s first foundation for a public university, marks its 125th anniversary this year, the Lawrence Journal-World (https://bit.ly/2fECeVZ ) reports.

Without the association’s funding KU would be a shadow of its present self - in acreage, buildings and financial support for students, faculty and other initiatives.

“The history and tradition of this organization is one that has brought great benefits to the University of Kansas,” KU Endowment president Dale Seuferling said. “The evidence is really all around us.”

KU Endowment started small, with a gift of land designated for athletics.

Charles Robinson, a Lawrence resident and the first governor of Kansas, wanted to sell the university a parcel and offered to contribute half the cost of the land, valued at $2,500, according to “From Vision to Reality,” a book commemorating KU Endowment’s 100th anniversary. However, state law at the time required that all donations to state universities become part of a general state fund from which only the interest could be spent on universities, thus limiting the uses of gifts to KU.

On Oct. 31, 1891, Robinson, then-Chancellor Francis Snow and several other friends of KU met with attorneys and agreed to form the Kansas University Endowment Association “for the purpose of receiving, managing, and administering money and other gifts for the use and benefit of the University of Kansas,” according to the book. The new association received the deed of land from Robinson and used a $2,500 gift from Col. J.J. McCook of New York City to complete the transaction and pay for ongoing maintenance of what became McCook Field - the area now home to Memorial Stadium - for athletics events.

Other early milestones, according to the book and a history of the association’s early years held in the Spencer Research Library:

-In 1893, KU Endowment received its charter and formally incorporated as a nonprofit educational organization.

-In 1898, as one of its first major purchases, the association assumed a contract held by Chancellor Snow to buy an electric pipe organ for the Fraser Hall chapel. KU Endowment agreed to borrow money for the endeavor and spent $630.02 on the final payment in 1906, leaving only $305.51 on hand in its treasury.

-In 1904, KU Endowment accepted the gift for its first endowed fund, from KU’s Kappa Alpha Theta sorority in memory of member Alice May Sexton Agnew, who graduated from KU in 1901, married a military man and followed him to the Philippines, where she died in November of the same year. The sorority women collected $500 and specified that income from the gift be used to purchase books of fine literature for the library. Beginning with “In Memoriam,” by Alfred Lord Tennyson, the Kappa Alpha Theta May Sexton Agnew Memorial Book Fund has purchased hundreds of volumes since.

KU Endowment’s motto since 1920, according to the centennial book, has been “To Build a Greater University Than the State Alone Can Build.”

Around the 1930s, “four-fifths of the annual income of the University, more than a million and a half, came from state appropriation,” according to “Kansas and Her University,” a KU Endowment promotional pamphlet from the time, on file in the Spencer Research Library.

Now, state general funds contribute roughly 19 percent of the KU Lawrence campus’ $701 million budget, according to KU’s projected operating budget for fiscal year 2017.

The percentage of KU’s overall budget that comes from KU Endowment was 13.1 percent in fiscal year 2015, the latest year available, according to Rosita Elizalde-McCoy, senior vice president for communications and marketing for KU Endowment.

Since its founding, KU Endowment has provided $2.3 billion in direct financial support to KU, according to the organization. That includes 86 percent of the land under the university, about 2,300 scholarship funds and close to 200 professorships.

Gifts to KU Endowment enabled construction of the Memorial Campanile, the Lied Center, the Spencer Museum of Art, the Spencer Research Library, scholarship halls and numerous other buildings.

Three buildings that opened in the past year were constructed entirely with donated funds: Capitol Federal Hall, the School of Business building; the DeBruce Center, home to James Naismith’s original rules of “Basket Ball”; and McCarthy Hall, the apartment building where the KU men’s basketball team lives.

“It’s something that contributes to advancing the entire fabric of the university,” Seuferling said.

Dolph Simons Jr., former editor of the Journal-World, served on the KU Endowment board of trustees for decades, including as chairman. Simons’ father, Dolph Simons, was on the board for years before him.

Dolph Simons Jr. said the 1940s and 1950s brought new awareness of KU Endowment’s importance to the university.

Simons recalled Chancellor Franklin Murphy, who led KU from 1951 to 1960 and was known, according to his KU biography, for “dramatically’ increasing funds for research, distinguished professorships, faculty salaries and scholarships.

“He, at that time, noted time and time and time again that the endowment association and the money it raised was really the frosting on the cake,” Simons said. “Money enabled KU to do those things that distinguished it from other universities.”

Anymore, with shrinking state aid, the university relies greatly on KU Endowment, Simons said. “Now, it’s paying for quite a bit of the cake itself.”

University endowments have been criticized in recent years by some who say donations to them shouldn’t have the same tax benefits as other nonprofits.

If endowments spend their money the way they ought, they do deserve the tax-exempt status, Simons said.

When his father was a leader in the association, Simons remembered him emphasizing its autonomy.

“He would go to the chancellors and tell them they should not look at the endowment association as their own cookie jar,” Simons said. “It is a totally private institution. It’s not a part of the university.”

Multimillion gifts to KU Endowment - of which there have been many - don’t just suddenly appear.

In its infancy the organization was more passive, mainly offering a legal vehicle for people who wanted to donate.

Now it actively seeks gifts.

Currently KU Endowment has 170 full-time employees and 60 part-time employees, mostly students working the call center, Seuferling said.

KU’s big donors usually have a shared vision with the university and a desire to make a difference in society, Seuferling said. He said “a personal connection” often drives what they donate to.

That might be a desire to make art accessible to students, find a cure for cancer or, for people who attended KU on scholarship and went on to be financially successful, to “pay it back.”

“It’s individualized with each person,” he said.

Endowment representatives communicate with donors and build relationships over the course of years, Seuferling said. He said many start with “modest” gifts, increase them to larger gifts and sometimes even ultimately decide to leave their entire estate.

A 1984 dissertation at the Spencer Research Library titled “An Assessment of the Functions of the Kansas University Alumni and Endowment Associations” concluded this about KU Endowment’s importance:

“The University of Kansas was born out of philanthropy … the fact that there exists a tradition giving to the University of Kansas, and that alumni and friends remain loyal to the institution, has insured the survival of the university.”

In 125 years, a number of individuals have donated astonishing amounts of money to KU. These are some with the greatest impact, according to KU Endowment.

Solon Summerfield: In 1929, this KU alumnus committed himself and ultimately his estate to maintain a series of four-year, merit-based scholarships at KU. As of May 2014, more than 2,202 Summerfield Scholarships had been awarded.

Elizabeth Miller Watkins: In 1939 she donated 25,000 acres of land that enabled land purchases that doubled the size of the Lawrence and KU Medical Center campuses. Watkins bequeathed her home, which became the chancellor’s residence, and funded construction of Twente Hall (formerly Watkins Memorial Heath Center), Watkins and Miller scholarship halls and many other initiatives.

Helen Foresman Spencer: In 1966 she donated money to build the Kenneth Spencer Research Library, in memory of her late husband. In 1976, her $4.6 million gift funded construction of the Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art.

Lied Foundation Trust (from the estate of Ernst Lied): A $10 million gift enabled construction of the Lied Center, which opened in 1993, as well as programming in Lawrence and across the state.

Al and Lila Self: Over their lifetime and from their estate gift, the Selfs donated a total of $106 million to KU, the university’s record for donations from an individual. From their 2014 $58 million estate gift, $38 million went to the Self Graduate Fellowship Fund for doctoral students in STEM fields, business and economics; $15 million was marked for the Self Engineering Leadership Fellows Program for engineering and computing undergrads; and $4 million established the Self Graduating Senior Fellowship Fund.


Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, https://www.ljworld.com

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