KANSAS CITY, KAN. — Kansas University will receive the largest gift ever given to a university in Kansas, officials announced Tuesday.
The Hall Family Foundation, a longtime KU benefactor established by Hallmark Cards pioneer Joyce C. Hall, will donate $42 million to the university over the next five years. The gift will benefit four areas: life sciences, the humanities, the Edwards Campus and the School of Business.
Of the $42 million, $35 million will go toward buildings and $4.5 million for endowed professorships.
The announcement came at a ceremony at KU Medical Center, with hundreds of KU administrators, faculty, students and alumni in attendance. The KU Endowment Association accepted the pledge for KU's fund-raising capital campaign, which is to be announced this fall.
"We hope that this grant will serve as a source of encouragement not only to the future students and teachers of KU but also to lawmakers and private donors as well," said Donald J. Hall, chairman of the Hall Family Foundation and Hallmark Cards Inc.
Donald Hall, Joyce Hall's son, said foundation board members believe in the "university's high commitment to excellence in the future."
"This is a great day for a university," Chancellor Robert Hemenway said.
Bill Hall, president of the Hall Family Foundation, said the grant signaled an increasing partnership between KU and Kansas City.
"People don't fully understand or recognize how important KU is to the future of Kansas City," said Hall, who is not related to Donald Hall. "With this grant, we hope people will realize KU is one of the universities that is going to shape the future of this city."
The announcement drew praise from state government officials.
"Kansas has long been the beneficiary of the Halls and the Hall Foundation," said Lt. Gov. Gary Sherrer. "This is just another outstanding example of that generosity."
Clay Blair, chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents, said such grants were key to the university's success.
"To become an outstanding university, you have to realize the funding from the state and tuition doesn't expand greatly each year," he said. "If the university has greater needs, it needs to reach them through increased research grants and endowment."
Much of the gift $27 million will go toward establishing a new research center at the Med Center. The gift also includes $5 million for KU's Edwards Campus in Overland Park, $7 million for the Hall Center for the Humanities and $500,000 for the School of Business on the Lawrence campus.
Life sciences effort
KU officials say $29.5 million devoted to life sciences will help the university and the entire Kansas City area be a major player in biological research.
Plans call for a five-story, 205,000-square-foot building on the Med Center campus. It will be north of 39th Street near the Dykes Library.
The building will cost an estimated $65 million, with $21 million in equipment and furnishings inside. No timetable has been set for construction.
KU research currently includes projects to cure cancer and AIDS and to chart brainwaves in newborn children. Projects for Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, stroke and Alzheimer's disease also are being done.
The research building also will include facilities for proteomics research, the study of proteins expected to be a major focus of drug development in the future.
"You don't know what's going to happen, but you know that's where the action is," said Donald Hagen, executive vice chancellor at KU in charge of the Med Center.
The Hall gift also includes $1.5 million for "bridging grants" to help researchers prepare applications for outside grants. Two endowed professorships also will be established one in molecular biosciences and another for gene and chromosome research.
Bob Clark, vice chancellor for the Edwards Campus, said he hoped the gift would help create a stronger KU presence in Kansas City.
The donation includes $5 million toward a $16 million, 55,000-square-foot building at the 36-acre Overland Park campus. It is the next step in a $71 million plan to quadruple the size of the campus.
"We've doubled the number of programs available and we've just run out of space," Clark said. "We can't grow any faster than our capacity allows us to."
The Edwards campus building would include 21 high-tech classrooms, at least three computer labs and a 240-seat auditorium.
The Hall Center for the Humanities which was named for Joyce Hall and his wife, Elizabeth, after they donated $3.5 million in 1984 and 1985 will receive $7 million from the new donation.
Three million dollars will go toward either remodeling the existing center located in the 1937 Watkins Home on Sunflower Road or building another elsewhere on the Lawrence campus.
Hall Center director Victor Bailey said the building's conference room and offices are too small to accommodate the growing center. It lacks wheelchair accessibility and doesn't have central air conditioning.
"The innards of the place leave a bit to be desired," he said.
The gift includes $1 million toward matching funds for a $500,000 National Endowment for the Humanities grant. The center must raise $2 million to receive the grant, which will primarily be used for outreach programs.
Another $2.5 million will establish endowed humanities professorships. The professorships will be named for other donors who provide matching funds for the posts.
Also, $500,000 will supplement one of five existing professorships established by the Hall Family Foundation in the 1980s.
"It's a recruitment tool to bring in excellence at the top end, or people whose career is really taking off academic stars to improve the standing in the university," Bailey said.
The remaining $500,000 of the $42 million gift will establish the Maurice Joy distinguished professorship in the School of Business.
Joy taught at KU from 1969 to 2000, when he retired. He was the Joyce C. Hall distinguished professor from 1981 to 2000.
Joy, a noted finance expert who has worked with the Hall Family Foundation on its investments, said he was "flabbergasted" to have a professorship named for him. But through working with the foundation, he said, "their generosity shouldn't surprise me."
Staff writer Terry Rombeck can be reached at 832-7145.