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After hitchhiking to Lawrence when he was 17, Gene Feaster paid his way as a chemistry undergraduate at Kansas University in the late 1930s by working three jobs.
While a student, Feaster was a lifeguard at Robinson Gymnasium, a clerk at the physics library and a busboy in Corbin Hall. Now in his 90s, he wants to make things a little easier for someone else going through KU.
The KU Endowment announced today that Feaster has donated $2 million dollars to the university, half of which is earmarked for scholarships for future students.
“I hope that somebody doesn’t have to work quite as hard as I did to make it from point A to point B,” Feaster said in a statement.
The gift will launch two new $500,000 scholarships, one in nursing and one in physics. The other $1 million will create a professorship in the KU School of Nursing called the “Ida Johnson Feaster Professorship,” named after Feaster’s late wife.
Feaster, who currently lives in Leawood, went on to earn his PhD in physics from KU in 1953. For the first part of his career, he worked for RCA and Westinghouse, where the company twice named him “inventor of the year.”
In a mid-career shift, Feaster went to the University of Virginia to study medical physics. He later taught radiology therapy at KU Medical Center, where he invented Superflab, a gel that reduces radioactive exposure for cancer patients undergoing radiation therapies.
Superflab keeps radiation from penetrating into the body beyond where a tumor lies by acting as a flesh-like buffer. The material is still used in radiology clinics across the country.
Feaster's gift to the physics department will help someone following in his own path through the school.
Karen Miller, dean of the KU nursing school, said in a statement that the gift to her school is meant to commemorate the nurses who worked with Feaster's wife while she was ill. In the past, Feaster has given monetary awards to nursing students recognized by the KU nursing school.