A former oil company executive and his wife have pledged $6.5 million to the Kansas University school of engineering, the KU Endowment Association announced Monday.
The gift is from Charles Spahr, chief executive officer of Standard Oil Company from 1959 to 1977, and his wife, Mary Jane.
Charles Spahr graduated from KU in 1934 with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering. He was instrumental in construction of the Trans-Alaska pipeline.
"It was Charles' vision and commitment that made the pipeline a reality," said Stuart Bell, a friend of the Spahrs and engineering dean. "He made it happen."
Mary Jane Spahr attended KU in 1938. The Spahrs, who live in Shaker Heights, Ohio, have five children.
"Charles and Mary Jane are very generous people," Bell said. "They have very giving hearts."
An unspecified portion of the donation is tied to the couple's estate and will be available to the university upon their deaths.
The donation is unrestricted. Most of it, Bell said, will be used to attract, retain and support top-notch students and faculty and ensure access to state-of-the-art equipment.
"Schools of engineering are highly competitive," Bell said. "This is going to allow us to remain competitive."
Prior to Monday, the Spahrs had donated more than $5 million to several projects at KU, including $1.5 million for construction of the 230-seat Spahr Auditorium within the engineering school's Eaton Hall. They have supported or started several scholarship funds for students and professors.
Attempts to reach the Spahrs for comment were unsuccessful.
"Charles has told me that when he looks back on all that he's accomplished, he realizes that so much of it goes back to his days at KU," Bell said. "And he wants to make sure that others can do the same -- cross the same gulf. I call him a bridge builder. He's giving back."