Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ottawa philanthropists live on through gifts to KU, Franklin County Historical Society

By BOBBY BURCH, Herald Staff Writer | 8/2/2013

A former Franklin County family’s gift is aiming to cultivate the next generation of Kansas journalists.

The University of Kansas Endowment recently announced that the estate of John P. Kaiser and his wife, Mary Kaiser, awarded the KU school of journalism a $1.36 million gift toward the Kaisers’ scholarship fund.

A former Franklin County family’s gift is aiming to cultivate the next generation of Kansas journalists.

The University of Kansas Endowment recently announced that the estate of John P. Kaiser and his wife, Mary Kaiser, awarded the KU school of journalism a $1.36 million gift toward the Kaisers’ scholarship fund.

“The Kaisers’ love for KU and the school of journalism is humbling,” Ann Brill, dean of the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, said. “Their gifts continue to provide our students with incredible opportunities to further their education, which is one of the best gifts we can give the future generations.”

In 2005, the Kaisers first established their scholarship fund with a $500,000 gift, which already has supported nine students, according to the journalism school. Now with a gift nearly three times larger, the school anticipates more than double the amount of students benefiting from the fund.

John Kaiser, who died in 2007 at 79, grew up in Ottawa, where his father operated a number of drug and bookstores. Kaiser graduated from the KU school of journalism in 1951, and eventually went on to be a journalist with the U.S. Coast Guard and a marketing executive for the magazine division of Dun & Bradstreet in Chicago. Mary Kaiser, who died in January at 84, graduated from Fairmont State College and worked as the secretary to the president of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and later at Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad Co.

Rachel Urban, Ottawa High School’s newspaper and photography instructor, said such scholarship opportunities offer not only financial support, but also provide students the time to build their professional repertoire.

“These [scholarships] allow them to do things outside the classroom — to get involved in newspaper, or TV, to build their portfolio to help get a job after graduation,” Urban, 23, who’s entering her second year at OHS, said. “Journalism, like teaching, is one of those fields where it’s known for its lower salaries right out of school, and any opportunity a student has to have their education paid for is a great opportunity.”

In addition to benefiting area students, the Kaisers’ generosity also is helping to preserve Franklin County history. Last year, the Kaiser estate announced plans to give $272,000 toward Franklin County Historical Society’s endowment.  

“It’s been a wonderful occurrence for us to be one of the recipients of their funds,” Deb Barker, Franklin County Historical Society director, said, adding that the gift surpassed the historical society’s fund-rasing goal of $250,000. “It’s the biggest gift we’ve received at one time, and it’s the biggest [gift] generally.”

Barker said the funds, which have been invested in the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, will help the historical society cope with decreased funding and the difficulty of securing grants. The historical society recently received the first installment — $222,000 — of that gift, Barker said.

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