Archive for Sunday, September 26, 1993


September 26, 1993


Ross and Marianna Beach may have no equal when it comes to spreading their wealth among state universities in Kansas.

They've donated $6 million in the past four years to Kansas University, Kansas State University and Fort Hays State University.

"We're lucky and fortunate we've been able to do these things. We mean that," Mr. Beach, chairman of Douglas County Bank in Lawrence, said in an interview Saturday.

The couple divide their time between homes in Lawrence and Hays and prefer to avoid publicity regarding their philantrophy.

But they have left a permanent mark on the university towns of Lawrence, Hays and Manhattan.

"Our good friend, who had been chairman of the Board of Regents, kidded us and said Emporia, Wichita and Pittsburg are just waiting," Mrs. Beach said.

The three other regents' universities are located in those cities.

The Beaches have targeted projects involving the performing and visual arts and programs that help families and the disabled.

In August, the Beaches' donated $1 million to KU's Beach Center on Families and Disability, which was named for them in 1988.

They gave $750,000 four years ago to the center. It was the first federally funded national rehabilitation research and training center for families with members with developmental disabilities or severe emotional disturbances.

Since 1981, Marianna Beach has been a U.S. representative of the directing council of the Inter-American Children's Institute, based in Montevideo, Uruguay, and affiliated with the Organization of American States.

She served from 1969 to 1975 on the president's committee on mental retardation.

KU Chancellor Gene Budig said the Beaches had given hope to thousands of children and their families over the years.

"Few individuals anywhere have cared so much for others," he said.

In recognition of their commitment, KU bestowed its highest award, the Distinguished Service Citation, on Mr. Beach in 1977 and on Mrs. Beach in 1990.

Ross Beach said the KU citations were an honor and a source of amusement, since the Beaches graduated from KSU. Marianna Beach graduated with high honors.

"We had a lot of fun with that," he said. "We had friends joke that they would pay their (alumni) dues under protest."

The couple's three daughters -- Mary McDowell of Lawrence, Terry Edwards of Hutchinson and Jane Hipp of Wichita -- all graduated from KU.

In June, the Beaches gave $1 million to FHSU to help finance transfer a fossil collection with 3.7 million pieces to a new museum in Hays.

FHSU President Edward Hammond said the gift would ensure the little-known Sternberg Memorial Museum becomes a major tourist attraction. He expects 250,000 visitors and an economic impact of $37 million a year.

"The museum has been a real gem in our crown, but no one really knew about it, so it didn't really shine," Hammond said.

Bob and Pat Schmidt of Hays and the Beaches donated $500,000 each to Fort Hays State in 1989 for the Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center.

In 1991, Ross Beach pledged $2 million to KSU for construction of an art museum that will be named for Marianna.

"It was the last university in the Big Eight to not have an art museum," Mr. Beach said.

Ruth Ann Wefald, a member of KSU's art museum committee and wife of the university's president, said it was "among the most significant gifts ever made to Kansas State."

In 1989, the Beaches gave $750,000 to the KSU's journalism school.

The Beaches said no gift could be singled out as one that gave them the most satisfaction.

"We're equally interested in the arts and the (KU) center for strengthening families," Mrs. Beach said.

"All were needed," Mr. Beach added.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.