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Archive for Friday, March 27, 1998

KU, FHSU LAND MULTIMILLION-DOLLAR GIFT FROM HAYS COUPLE

March 27, 1998

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The auction of 7,000 acres in northwestern Kansas this summer could mean millions for Kansas University, Fort Hays State University and a Hays hospital.

Kansas University, another Kansas Board of Regents institution and a hospital could end up sharing $20 million from the estate of a deceased couple from Hays.

KU received a check for $855,000 last week from the estate of Paul and Virginia Miller, said John Scarffe, director of communications for the KU Endowment Association. Fort Hays State University and Hays Medical Center each received checks for nearly $430,000.

Those checks, however, will likely increase dramatically when the couple's 7,000 acres spread over seven northwest Kansas counties are publicly auctioned this summer.

Attorney Dennis Bieker, who represents the Miller estate, said the windfall could reach $20 million.

``That's a good ballpark figure, although it's hard to say, because you never know about land prices,'' he said.

Paul Miller, a retired banker and investor, and his wife, Virginia, had no children and willed all but a small portion of their estate to the institutions.

Half of the proceeds are headed to KU, from where both Millers graduated. The other half will be split evenly between Fort Hays State's endowment association and the medical center.

The Millers had already established scholarships at KU and Fort Hays State.

Scarffe said the funds from the estate will be dedicated entirely to the KU engineering school for student scholarships and faculty sponsorships. Virginia Miller died in 1993. Her husband died Jan. 23 in Hays.

Whatever comes from the auction, it looks to be a huge return for the schools.

``This is by far the largest contribution (to Fort Hays State) since I've been here,'' said Virgil Scott, president and chief executive officer of the school's endowment association. ``What's really exciting is all of the good that the contribution will do and the lives that will be touched, in effect, through many years, is immense.''

The money will come in handy for the hospital, which is undergoing a large expansion project, Bieker said.

Because the estate is entirely a charitable deduction, it isn't taxable, Bieker said.

``Estate tax is usually horrendous,'' he said. ``But because this is all to charity, not one cent goes back to Washington, D.C. Every single cent stays right here in Kansas.''

James B. Martin, KUEA president, heaped praise on the Millers.

``Their investment in the young people of KU means so much to our programs, professors and students, and has helped assure the highest quality possible. We could not be more grateful,'' he said.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this story

-- Matt Gowen's phone message number is 832-7222. His e-mail address is gowen@ljworld.com.

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