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Archive for Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pleasant Hill, Mo., man leaves $800,000 to KU to establish scholarships

September 18, 2010

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When it became evident that Nelson Gipson’s cancer wasn’t going to allow him to live much longer, the 83-year-old Pleasant Hill, Mo., man sent for a lawyer.

Nelson Gipson

Nelson Gipson

Nelson Gipson donated $800,000 to Kansas University to establish scholarships named for his grandparents, Samuel and Rosa Gipson, and his mother, Lelia Ima Gipson, with whom Gipson lived until she died.

Nelson Gipson donated $800,000 to Kansas University to establish scholarships named for his grandparents, Samuel and Rosa Gipson, and his mother, Lelia Ima Gipson, with whom Gipson lived until she died.

His lifelong friend, Marcia McConville, was there, too.

“I had no idea what he wanted to do, but I was going to make darned sure it was going to get done,” McConville said.

As it turns out, the man who spent his whole life in the house where he was raised, the man who rarely spoke unless spoken to, the man who had dutifully played the organ each Sunday at St. Bridget Catholic Church for more than 50 years, had some money to give away. His estate was valued at about $1.7 million.

He’d never married, and had no close family members, so he elected to donate it.

Kansas University was one of the major beneficiaries, as Gipson left $800,000 for scholarship funds for his alma mater, where he studied finance and economics. He was very adamant, McConville recalled, that nothing be named after him.

Instead, the money will establish scholarships named for his grandparents, Samuel and Rosa Gipson, and his mother, Lelia Ima Gipson, with whom Gipson lived until she died.

He didn’t talk about KU much, McConville said, but that wasn’t all that surprising, because he didn’t talk about anything much.

“He was never a man who ever called attention to himself about anything,” McConville said.

It was a surprise for many that Gipson, who worked at the Social Security Administration in Kansas City, was able to accumulate that much wealth, said Robert Kennedy, curator of the Pleasant Hill Historical Society museum.

He lived a fairly austere life, and was a local property owner and landlord — and by most accounts, a good one, Kennedy said, charging reasonable rents and keeping his properties well maintained. He also was a shrewd investor.

Gipson remembered the historical society in his will, too, helping them far exceed the $200,000 they needed to raise in order to secure a $50,000 challenge grant.

He was always very interested in local history, particularly about Pleasant Hill’s black community, Kennedy said. Once, the National Trapshooting Hall of Fame called and said they were looking for the grave of an elite black trapshooter from around the turn of the century named Tobias H. Cohron, and believed it to be in Pleasant Hill.

Kennedy remembered how he searched the local cemeteries, and then figured he’d ask Gipson.

As it turned out, not only did Gipson know where the unmarked grave was, he’d been visiting it and placing flowers there every year since Cohron died in 1955.

Cohron was a friend of Gipson’s grandfather’s, Kennedy said, and Gipson figured that some folks just don’t have anyone to remember them. Shortly after the grave was located, Kennedy said a “big, beautiful headstone” was placed at the site.

“It’s a story of serendipity,” Kennedy said.

And now, the historical society’s museum will more than triple in size, thanks in large part to Gipson’s gift. Kennedy figures there will be “some kind of deal there” in Gipson’s honor. Maybe a library, he said, because he sure did seem to read a lot.

Gipson was always polite, and always answered questions if you asked, but never volunteered much information about his private life, recalled Tim Long, business manager at St. Bridget. Few photos of him existed, and some in the church said that he was like a ghost — no one ever saw him come or leave.

“He was a quiet and humble servant,” Long said.

The church, too, benefited from Gipson’s estate, which totaled around $1.7 million. He’d already donated more than $30,000 for a new organ. Msgr. Bradley Offutt, who was serving as a pastor at the time, recalled how Gipson reached in his pocket and without a word, wrote out a check for the entire amount.

Now, there’s a piano, too, dedicated to his memory at the church.

Offutt said Gipson’s life is a fascinating example of how actions speak louder than words. Most of the 300 families who attended the church held Gipson in high regard, even though most had never spoken a word to him.

“They could tell the kind of person he was,” Offutt said. “He was perhaps the most eloquent example of the power of humility I’ve ever seen.”

The scholarships that he set up are designed to benefit students in perpetuity.

“He took the cards that God gave him, origin, race, religion,” Offutt said. “And he did something very good with it.”

Comments

The_Voice_of_Reason 4 years, 3 months ago

I think I feel a little bit better about humanity after reading this...

LogicMan 4 years, 3 months ago

Me too, but I still want off this rock!

KEITHMILES05 4 years, 3 months ago

What a wonderful person. This country needs more like him.

RIP.

parrothead8 4 years, 3 months ago

Your sadly misguided comment allows for absolutely no autonomy in the students' thinking processes. Perhaps he thought he was leaving the money to allow the nation's young people to learn as much as possible, make up their own minds, and live good lives...like he did.

yankeevet 4 years, 3 months ago

Those Missouri folks are ok; ain't the right Jayhawkers????

aequitas 4 years, 3 months ago

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blueberries 4 years, 3 months ago

The story doesn't mention it, but he was also a KU alumnus.

davidsmom 4 years, 3 months ago

Actually it does. It says he left the money to his alma mater.

kusp8 4 years, 3 months ago

Wow...what a cool story. The world could use more people like Nelson Gibson; a humble and gracious man. I wish I could have met him as he sounds like he was a wonderful person.

beatrice 4 years, 3 months ago

Looks like Mr. Gibson led the life he wanted to live, and then left money so others might get a chance to improve their lives. Very cool indeed. I hope those who receive the scholarships go on to do great things.

I would only like to add, if you have plans for your money, don't wait to fill out a will. Best to do it earlier than later. You can always make changes as your priorities change with time.

Rest in Peace Mr. Gibson, and may the memory of you and your family live on through those who receive your scholarships.

4everahawk 4 years, 3 months ago

What an uplifting story!

“He was perhaps the most eloquent example of the power of humility I’ve ever seen.” What a great compliment for such a deserving individual. How lucky for those people who knew him. I'm sure he influenced many people without ever knowing it.

4 years, 3 months ago

That's awesome! What a generous man.

kernal 4 years, 3 months ago

A man who understood and practiced generosity of spirit. RIP Mr. Gipson.

MaryKatesPillStash 4 years, 3 months ago

What an amazing story! I hope recipients of these scholarships take the opportunity to read this!

jayhawklawrence 4 years, 3 months ago

Very inspiring story in this age of celebrity worship.

Mr. Nelson Gipson; someone worth remembering for a very long time.

weeslicket 4 years, 3 months ago

great story. great life.

on an aside:: observations which answer themselves: "It was a surprise for many that Gipson ...... was able to accumulate that much wealth... " "He lived a fairly austere life, and was a local property owner and landlord — and by most accounts, a good one, Kennedy said, charging reasonable rents and keeping his properties well maintained. He also was a shrewd investor."

Escapee 4 years, 3 months ago

...that actions speak louder than words...or money in some instances. I will remember this story for a very long time and try to live my better life as Mr. Gibson evidently did. Humility is a very good trait. Thank you, Mr. Gibson. Thank you for this story LJW.

Graczyk 4 years, 3 months ago

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Stuart Evans 4 years, 3 months ago

This story was enlightening and heartwarming. I'm glad that there are people out there like this man.

Zachary Stoltenberg 4 years, 3 months ago

Nice to wake up to such a heartwarming story. It seems amazing to reflect on the life of someone who worked hard, saved well, and gave generously. Today it seems that everyone wants something for nothing, the almighty dollar is more important than honesty, and giving is for the weak and feeble minded. Only the rich survive! We all could do well to learn from this man's example and take to heart his actions. Thank you Mr. Gipson...

jlzack 4 years, 3 months ago

Bless his heart, may he rest in peace.

rtwngr 4 years, 3 months ago

Many lessons for all of us to learn from this great man. One of the best stories ever published in this newspaper.

tomatogrower 4 years, 3 months ago

It's a relief to read about someone who cared about his community. Thankfully he didn't give it to the athletic department to build a new field house and name it for a young relative who likes to party instead of getting an education. Too bad more people don't follow his example.

Jason Bennett 4 years, 3 months ago

Nowhere in this article does it mention when Gipson died. Shouldn't that be in here?

staff04 4 years, 3 months ago

You're right...he should have put it into a tax sheltered revenue generator for the right-wing...would have made much more sense, what with the fact that it was probably all your money he had saved up over those years anyway...

Tool.

KansasPerson 4 years, 3 months ago

"No one would have known about Mr. Gipson..."

And it sounds (from the description of him) like that's exactly the way he would have wanted it! That's true humility.

OTOH I'm glad that the story got out, because of comments like Escapee's, rtwngr's, and many others.

I know I won't forget it in a hurry.

Escapee 4 years, 3 months ago

Boy, some people just can't resist a negative thought....

It is that desire to somehow catch 15 seconds of 'fame' by voicing things aloud that is the antithesis of what Mr. Gibson lived. How impressive is it to be able to suppress voicing satirical one-liners and simply 'pass' on the negative thoughts that we all have at times! Impulsiveness and spontaneous negative responses to what is truly good...are such a waste of time and energy.

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