A gift to Kansas University will establish the university's first fellowship designed for those who work outside academia.
The $350,000 donation from Dolph C. Simons Jr., editor of the Lawrence Journal-World and chairman of The World Company, and his wife, Pam, will create the Simons Distinguished Citizen Fellowship.
The fellowship will bring professionals in fields such as journalism, business, health care, law, politics, the arts or nonprofit work to KU for continuing education or research.
"I think more and more people in education need to look at education in the same way a person buys a car," Dolph Simons said. "People go to a university and think they have an education for the rest of their life. But you wouldn't buy a car without taking it to get a tune-up or getting it aligned."
The fellowship, to be administered by the Hall Center for the Humanities, will provide a $20,000 stipend to one fellow for a semester of work.
To qualify, the applicant must be from the Midwest, have five years of professional experience and take a leave of absence from his or her current employer, who will be urged to supplement the stipend amount to provide a greater salary.
While on campus, the fellow can work with faculty, conduct research, serve as a guest speaker and participate in Hall Center activities. The fellow will present a public lecture at the end of the fellowship period.
The $350,000 gift from the Simons family will be partially matched through a challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to create a fund worth $437,500.
Victor Bailey, director of the Hall Center, said he hoped the fund could be expanded in future years.
"This is really a small seedling going in the ground and hopefully we can build on it," he said.
Bailey said he thought the fellows could contribute to the life of the university in addition to furthering their own education
"They will be contributing a dose of reality to some of the issues we're dealing with, admittedly, in an academic way," he said.
Dolph Simons, a 1951 KU graduate in journalism, served as chairman of the KU Endowment Association board of trustees from 1994 to 2002 and is a member of the board's executive committee. Pam Simons is a member of the Hall Center advisory board.
Dolph Simons said the fellowship program would contribute to KU's outreach efforts, and expected it to be popular.
"I think it would be a great opportunity," he said. "It gets people back to the university."