Philanthropist honored for service

About 350 people listened Thursday evening to many light-hearted stories and kind words about a well-known Lawrence philanthropist as her closest friends gathered to pay tribute.

On Thursday at the Lawrence Holidome, the program “An Evening with Tensie Oldfather and Friends” honored Oldfather, a Lawrence resident since 1950, and was also the fourth annual fundraiser for the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center.

“Tensie should be commended thoroughly for her long record of community service,” Gov. Kathleen Sebelius wrote in a letter that master of ceremonies Monte Johnson read.

Oldfather is the widow of former Kansas University law professor Charles Oldfather. She has served on the board of directors for Bert Nash, and the couple has donated millions of dollars to community organizations and KU, including the Oldfather Studios, which house KU’s film department.

She also helped found the Douglas County Community Foundation with a $4 million gift in 2000. The foundation is a charitable organization that supports a variety of activities meant to improve life in Douglas County.

Tensie Oldfather, left, talks with her daughter-in-law, Dyann Myers, of Stillwater, Minn., on Thursday during the Bert Nash fundraiser An

Oldfather sat onstage throughout the evening Thursday while her children performed music and several of her friends shared stories.

KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway praised Oldfather for the lengths she has gone to help others.

“I am in debt to Tensie for her kindness, generosity and wisdom,” he said.

Former Lawrence Mayor Marnie Argersinger described her friend as always reluctant to spend much money on herself.

“Tensie believes in the immorality of affluence,” she said.

While final totals were unavailable, organizers estimate that the event has raised about $50,000 for the Bert Nash center, said Scott McMichael, the center’s community development director.