K-State gets $60M gift, largest in school history

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas State University received a $60 million gift Friday from the family of longtime benefactor Jack Vanier, the largest private donation in school history, to be used for a range of academic programs and the latest round of athletic development.

The Vanier family has donated millions over the years for academics, upgrades at Bill Snyder Family Stadium and to endow the football head coaching position.

“We continue to have lots of conversations with families and donors and supporters of Kansas State about making investments, and this gift came out of those conversations,” Kansas State President Kirk Schulz said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“The Vanier family has been supporting Kansas State University for at least 50 years, through a couple generations,” Schulz said. “This constitutes their largest gift.”

Schulz said that Vanier family, which has significant cattle and ranching interests across Kansas, was proud to make the gift but wanted to remain “in the background.”

“Kansas State has always been a very important part of our lives,” the family said in a statement issued by the school. “Our hope is this will inspire others to make their investments in this great university.”

The gift earmarks $20 million for the third phase of the school’s master plan for athletics, which includes a new academic learning center, strength and conditioning spaces, football offices for the coaching staff and fan amenities in the north seating bowl of the stadium. That part of the stadium already features the Vanier Football Complex, which houses the locker rooms and other team meeting spaces.

The timeline and budget for the third phase of construction has not been announced. The school last fall unveiled the second phase, a $90 million renovation to the west side of the stadium that included a new training table and improved luxury seating.

“From the moment we arrived in 1989, members of the Vanier family have been faithful friends to the football program,” said Snyder, who has led the football program to two Big 12 titles. “We are deeply grateful for this wonderful commitment.”

The remaining $40 million from the Vanier family’s gift will be spent on students, faculty and academic interests at the Manhattan and Salina campuses. They include:

— Student scholarships and fellowships in the College of Technology and Aviation at the school’s Salina campus, the College of Business Administration and the Biosecurity Research Institute;

— Support for students across both campuses, including presidential scholarships and a gift for the K-State Proud Student Opportunity Awards;

— Faculty professorships and fellowships in the College of Human Ecology and the Biosecurity Research Institute, as well as professorships that may be awarded in any college;

— Excellence funds for the Biosecurity Research Institute and at the Salina campus, which allows university leaders to respond to urgent needs and emerging opportunities;

— Support for the K-State Welcome Center in the old Memorial Stadium in Manhattan, which will provide a central location for new student services, admissions, financial assistance, housing and dining services, and career and employment services.

“The impact of this gift will be wide-ranging,” said Fred Cholick, president and CEO of the KSU Foundation. “The generosity and thoughtful planning that went into this gift will make a difference across the academy for students and faculty.”

Schulz said the gift represents arguably the biggest step in the K-State 2025 project, an ambitious planning initiative announced in February 2010 designed to make the land-grant institution one of the nation’s top 50 public research universities by 2025.

The school has received several sizeable donations over the past few years, but the gift provided by the Vanier family is easily the largest.

“I think there’s some fallacy out there that Kansas State graduates and friends haven’t been as financially successful as those of other schools in the state or the region,” Schulz said. “Part of it is we’ve just done a better job of getting out in front of people with an exciting vision and at a time they feel comfortable to donate.”

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