HAYS, KS --Two new contributions announced today brought to $18.3 million the total given so far to Fort Hays State University's Centennial Campaign.
At a news conference this morning, Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, announced gifts totaling $850,000 from the Rev. Bill Miller and his wife, Carolyn, and from the estate of Dr. Donald B. Slechta.
"The state of Kansas does a good job for Fort Hays State," said Hammond, "but to reach excellence, FHSU needs help from its alumni and friends."
Both gifts announced today were charitable remainder unitrusts, $557,000 from the Slechta estate and $293,500 from the Millers.
Slechta, who died earlier this year, was an FHSU graduate who returned as a teacher and eventually was chair of the Department of Political Science and Justice Studies. He also practiced law in Russell.
His gift will fund the Don B. Slechta Fund for Excellence in Political Science, which will provide scholarships for FHSU students majoring in political science and for necessary expenditures.
Rev. Miller, an ordained minister of the United Methodist Church and a retired banker, is currently chaplain of Pastoral Care Services at Hays Medical Center. He also serves as a trustee for the FHSU Endowment Association. His wife, Carolyn, is a former president of the Hays Medical Center Auxiliary and the Chapter IH of PEO. She is also involved in the Hays Christian Women's Club. Their gift will benefit two endowed scholarship funds, one for the College of Business and Leadership and another for the Department of Nursing.
"Without the support of our friends we could still be a good university," said Hammond, "but with help from our friends, like Don Slechta and Bill and Carolyn Miller, we are able to go beyond the merely good and reach true excellence."
"There are a lot of things that are considered when making a donation," said Ken Havner, Hays attorney and former member of the Kansas Board of Regents, speaking on behalf of the Slechta estate. "But the combination of the affection Don felt for FHSU and the Political Science Department at FHSU, and the existing state tax laws, made it very advantageous to Don Slechta and his family." Havner is also a trustee for the Endowment Association.
Dr. Richard Heil, chair of the Department of Political Science and Justice Studies, spoke in acceptance of Slechta's gift. He knew Slechta for 40 years as a teacher, colleague, boss and a very good friend. Heil related something he told his wife when they were on the way to Slechta's funeral.
"I knew Don longer than I knew my own father," said Heil.
The Slechta fund, first endowed in 1997, is now awarded to one political science student each year.
"Once the unitrust is received, more funds will be available so that much more than one student will receive the scholarship," said Heil.
The Millers have been active members of their church and community. He was named an All American Citizen in 1997.
"It has long been our privilege to consider Fort Hays State University the most significant and finest asset of our community," said Bill Miller. "Because of the profound appreciation of the presence of the university in our city, we have been honored to make annual commitments to the scholarship program of the Endowment Association as a part of our personal stewardship.
Establishing the charitable remainder trust enables us to perpetuate our commitment in the funding of scholarships with permanency."
Dr. Mary Hassett, chair of the Department of Nursing, accepted the donation from the Millers. "Gifts such as these give strong opportunities to help students graduate earlier and to be out in the communities providing health care," she said.
"These gifts are a major investment in the future of not only the Department of Nursing but of western Kansas."
Dr. Rick Peters, dean, spoke on behalf of the College of Business and Leadership. "I want to express my sincere appreciation for Bill and Carolyn's continued support for the College of Business and Leadership through the years," said Peters. "In the six years I've been here, Bill has been a constant at the annual Scholarship Awards reception."
Virgil Scott, president and CEO of the FHSU Endowment Association, said, "By designating FHSU Endowment Association as the beneficiary of a charitable remainder trust, the Millers and Slechta made a commitment to helping future generations of FHSU students attain a quality education. We are forever grateful for their foresight and for investing in the future of FHSU."
Bill Robbins, president of Farmers Bank and Trust in Great Bend, member of the Endowment Association Board of Trustees and chair of the Centennial Campaign, said, "People give to the university because they have full knowledge of the value that the university adds to western Kansas. I want to personally thank the family of Dr. Slechta and the Millers."
For more information about the Endowment Association or details on how to donate, contact Scott at (785) 628-5620, or the Endowment Association's Director of Planned Giving, Ruth Heffel, at (785) 628-5888.