Archive for Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Kansan gives $150,000 for KU social-welfare scholarships in memory of her children who died in a car accident

December 5, 2012, 4:59 p.m. Updated December 5, 2012, 4:59 p.m.


Vergie and Mark Anderson, of Kinsley, will provide for scholarships for graduate students in the Kansas University School of Social Welfare with a $150,000 gift in honor of Vergie's two children, who died in a car accident in 1980.

Vergie and Mark Anderson, of Kinsley, will provide for scholarships for graduate students in the Kansas University School of Social Welfare with a $150,000 gift in honor of Vergie's two children, who died in a car accident in 1980.

It's something felt by just about any parent who outlives any of his or her children, Vergie Anderson says: the desire to make sure people remember.

It's no different for Anderson, whose two children — Jason, 13, and Brooke, almost 6 — died in a car accident in 1980.

"One of the most important things is that they are not forgotten, that they live on," Anderson said.

And they will, through a $150,000 gift announced Wednesday by Kansas University Endowment. It's from Vergie and her husband, Mark Anderson, who live in the south-central Kansas town of Kinsley. It will fund scholarships for graduate students in KU's School of Social Welfare.

Anderson earned a Master of Social Welfare degree from the school in 1990, after earning a bachelor's degree at St. Mary of the Plains College in Dodge City in 1988. After that, she spent 20 years working as a therapist and then as clinical director at Iroquois Center for Human Development, a small community mental health center in Greensburg. That included the period following the tornado that devastated the town in 2007, forcing the center to relocate for a time to nearby Haviland.

"For someone with a social-work heart, this is just a natural choice," Anderson said in a phone interview Wednesday.

The Mark and Vergie Anderson Scholarship fund in honor of Jason and Brooke Meckfessel will provide help for graduate students planning careers in the mental health field.

For Anderson, it's a perfect fit: The gift will help students who will go on to help others, perhaps following in her footsteps as therapists or mental health administrators. Her husband, who works as superintendent of the golf course at the Kinsley Country Club, is strongly supportive of the gift as well, she said.

"The School of Social Welfare is very dear to my heart, and it plays a very critical role in addressing many social problems," said Anderson, who also serves on the school's community advisory board.

And, of course, it will help ensure that Jason's and Brooke's names live on.

Both children, who came from a previous marriage, could light up a room with their sense of humor and they shared a sense of compassion rare for their ages, Anderson said.

Jason loved music, she said, and was excited to DJ a school dance not long before the accident in 1980. And he shared a special bond with his little sister.

"She very much admired her big brother," Anderson said. "They seemed to have kind of a special relationship. He was very protective of her, but that did not preclude them from having some very serious battles at times."

She spoke highly of the School of Social Welfare, as well, saying its graduates and its faculty research have changed lives for the better around Kansas, the nation and the world.

And now Jason and Brooke will play a role in that change, too, for as long as the school exists.


SWJayhawk13 5 years, 4 months ago

I think this is amazing. What a beautiful way to honor your children's memories, and to help people who want to follow in your footsteps in the field of Social Work. As a current BSW student at KU who is hoping to get her MSW at KU, I'd like to say thank you to the Andersons. Your gift will help so many people obtain their MSW that may not have been able to before, and with Social Work, you pretty much HAVE to have your MSW to be able to get a job that pays enough to get by on. I hope that the people who receive the scholarships know the story behind it, because it's awesome. So again, thank you so much.

Katara 5 years, 4 months ago

This is very wonderful thing the Andersons have done. So very thoughtful and an excellent way to honor the memory of their children.

Bob Forer 5 years, 4 months ago

A very generous gift considering that Social Work isn't exactly a high paying profession.

hedshrinker 5 years, 4 months ago

Wow, I'm shocked and awed...I went thru the MSW program with Vergie (who may have still used the Meckfessel name alone or in combo with Anderson then) ; I particiipated in study groups week in and week out with her for 2 years, knew she was smart, compassionate, very level-headed and calm, generous.. and private. This would have been about a decade after the death of her children, which I never knew anything about. This is a wonderful testament to her children ...and to her and her husband. I knew she was director at the MHC in Greensburg during the tornado recovery and she surely would have been a tremendous asset to that organization and mission when so many people's lives were (literally) turned upside down. What an inspiring role model in all ways! I am humbled...and (almost ) speechless.

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