The Kansas University School of Engineering is the beneficiary of a $32 million gift from the estate of Charles E. and Mary Jane Bruckmiller Spahr, the largest estate gift received in the history of the university.
“It’s a great time to celebrate the culmination of many years of working with Charlie and Janie Spahr,” said Dale Seuferling, president of the KU Endowment Association.
The gift was announced Friday afternoon at a reception at the school.
During their lifetime, the Spahrs donated $13 million to KU, Seuferling said, in addition to the $32 million estate gift.
The money will be used to create an endowed fund designed to benefit the KU engineering school in perpetuity.
The amount generated annually will grow over time, but will likely begin generating more than $1.5 million every year for the engineering school, Seuferling said.
“It’s a legacy that will continue to impact the school for decades to come,” said Stuart Bell, KU’s engineering dean.
Charles died in 2009, and Mary Jane died in 2010 after living most of their lives in Shaker Heights, Ohio. He grew up in Independence, Mo., before graduating from KU with a civil engineering degree in 1934. Spahr’s wife graduated in 1938.
After graduating, Charles joined Standard Oil of Ohio, where he became president in 1957 and CEO in 1959. He has received several awards from KU, receiving the Distinguished Service Citation in 1964, the Fred Ellsworth Medallion in 1983 and the Distinguished Engineering Service Award in 1980.
The engineering school intends to use the money in support of its plan to generate more engineers for the state of Kansas.
The funds will be used for student scholarships, student competitions and other student projects, Seuferling said. It will also provide faculty professorships that will allow KU to recruit and retain talented professors, along with other support.
The Spahrs’ earlier gifts have provided for construction of the Spahr Engineering Library, the Spahr Engineering Classroom in Eaton Hall, the Bruckmiller Room in Adams Alumni Center and scholarships and professorships.
Momentum is building at the KU engineering school in other areas, too. Construction is ongoing on an $18.8 million research building near Learned Hall. The school is seeking state support to issue $65 million in bonds to build a 100,000-square-foot classroom building that would be adjacent to the building under construction.
Bell said the school is trying to grow the number of engineers it generates each year by 60 percent by 2017.
The Spahrs’ gift — in addition to being the biggest estate gift KU has ever received — is among the largest donations of any sort ever received by the university. The single largest gift to KU was a $42 million pledge from the Hall Family Foundation in 2001.
That gift supported life sciences, the humanities, the Edwards Campus and the KU School of Business.