Archive for Thursday, June 21, 2001

KU expects gift to enhance quality of life in Lawrence

June 21, 2001


Though $33.5 million of the donation will go to the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., and the Edwards Campus in Overland Park, KU officials said Wednesday that the gift also would have a significant impact on the Lawrence campus.

Victor Bailey, director of the Hall Center for the Humanities, said support of scientific research often "has a more obvious return" than donations to the humanities. But he said the $7 million earmarked for the Hall Center, which is celebrating its 25th year, also will have an effect beyond the campus -- a better quality of life in Lawrence.

The Hall Center promotes appreciation of the humanities through lectures, seminars and publications. It also helps faculty find grant monies for research in the humanities.

The $42 million gift -- the largest ever to a university in Kansas -- was announced Tuesday. The largest portion -- $27 million -- will help build a research building at the Med Center. It's the latest development in a multi-institutional push to make Kansas City a national player in biomedical research.

The gift includes $4.5 million for endowed professorships in Lawrence. It also includes $3 million toward facilities and $1 million toward programs at the Hall Center for the Humanities.

"The infusion of $7 million into the humanities at KU is an incredible gift for us to have, and it's an historic gift," said Janet Crowe, the center's executive director. "It's a shot in the arm for all of us."

Center officials got busy Wednesday, with a building committee conducting its first meeting since announcment of the Hall Family Foundation grant. The committee will conduct a competition among architectural firms to decide construction plans for the Hall Center, which now calls a 1930s era KU building home.

History of helping

The Hall Family Foundation first helped the center -- then the Center for Humanistic Studies -- receive a matching grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1984 and 1985 with $3.5 million in donations. In 1986, KU renamed the center for Joyce Hall, founder of Hallmark Cards Inc., and his wife, Elizabeth.

The newest grant includes $1 million to help the center reach its $2 million goal to receive a $500,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

"The grant makes it possible to meet the challenge and take the center to a new plateau," Bailey said.

Some of the programs included under the new NEH grant:

l Expanding the center's humanities lecture series to attract better-known speakers.

l Conducting more Humanities Days events, where KU faculty members travel to other cities to give presentations on books.

l More summer seminars for schoolteachers. Past topics include the history of black writing and Native American oral history.

l Creating graduate internships for students to work at nonprofit organizations such as museums or the state historical society.

l Creating resident fellowships for faculty members from regional universities and community colleges to spend a semester at the Hall Center. Also, creating distinguished citizen fellowships for Kansas residents to spend a semester there.

Buildings, brains

Another $3 million of the gift will go to either remodel the Hall Center or help build a new one. Now it's located in the Watkins Home, which was built in 1937 as a dormitory for nurses. The building isn't big enough for large conferences, doesn't have air conditioning and isn't handicapped accessible.

"We are in a former nurses' home here," Bailey said. "These things aren't purpose-built for us. All of this (new facility) is a means to an end."

The Hall Center also will receive $2.5 million for humanities professorships. Bailey said there isn't a set number of professorships, but each will be matched by funds from other private donors, then named for the other donors.

Three other professorships -- one in business, one in molecular biosciences and another in genetics and chromosome research -- will be housed in Lawrence.

Endowed professorships provide funds in addition to state salaries to help universities attract and retain faculty members. After legislation passed in 2000 by the Kansas Legislature, the state will match interest on endowed professorships over $500,000.

Bill Fuerst, dean of the School of Business, said the new position should attract a top-notch business professor to KU.

"Typically we look at faculty members among the three dimensions of teaching, research and service," he said. "What we'd be looking at it someone who has distinguished him or herself based on those dimensions as a faculty member."

-- Staff writer Terry Rombeck can be reached at 832-7145.

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