Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

KU Endowment announces $1 million unrestricted gift from alumna, based on late husband’s wishes

Barbara Werbe Meek, a 1960 Kansas University graduate, is pictured with her daughters, Sheryl Lee (left) and Mindy Piontek, in this photo provided by the KU Endowment Association.

Barbara Werbe Meek, a 1960 Kansas University graduate, is pictured with her daughters, Sheryl Lee (left) and Mindy Piontek, in this photo provided by the KU Endowment Association.

July 15, 2013


Contact KU and higher ed reporter Sara Shepherd
Have a tip or story idea?
More stories

The Kansas University Endowment Association announced a rare kind of gift Monday, thanks to one of the last wishes of a KU alumnus who died in 1999.

Barbara Werbe Meek, a 1960 KU graduate who lives in Baton Rouge, La., has committed to a $1 million gift to KU, the Endowment announced. The gift is unrestricted, meaning it can be used for any purpose at KU with the approval of the Endowment’s Executive Committee.

“An unrestricted gift of this size is really welcomed by the university, and the most important type of giving,” said Dale Seuferling, the Endowment’s president.

And Meek chose to give in that fashion because of a wish her late husband, Richard Meek, made shortly before his death in 1999, according to a KU release.

Richard told Barbara to use a portion of their estate to leave the university a gift, and not just any gift.

“He felt very strongly that an unrestricted gift was the most beneficial way to give to KU, because it gives the university the flexibility to decide how to best use the funds,” Barbara Meek said in the release.

The Meeks met at a sorority/fraternity dance at KU, and they were married for nearly 40 years. Barbara earned a bachelor’s degree in education in 1960, while Richard received a bachelor’s in 1958 and a master’s in 1962, both in geology. He worked for Exxon for many years in oil and gas discovery.

One of the Meeks’ daughters also graduated from KU, and a grandson is a current KU undergraduate.

Richard and Barbara had already given more than $100,000 to the university before this new gift, including a gift for a geophysics scholarship.

“They’ve been consistent donors for many years,” Seuferling said.

Seuferling said Barbara Meek’s commitment was “one of the largest gifts in recent memory” when it comes to unrestricted donations.

Unrestricted gifts to the Endowment are dwarfed by gifts committed for specific purposes. For instance, in the 2012 fiscal year, the Endowment received about $2.3 million in unrestricted gifts — about 1.5 percent of its $156.5 million in total gifts and commitments.

The Endowment’s unrestricted gifts go into its Greater KU Fund. The money can be used for any purpose chosen by the KU chancellor, with the approval of the Endowment’s Executive Committee.

KU’s biggest use of unrestricted funds, Seuferling said, is to fund student scholarships — about 2,100 of them in the 2012 fiscal year. They also fund faculty professorships and awards, graduate student support and Alumni Association events.

The Greater KU Fund also pays for about 30 percent of Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little’s $492,650 salary, including all of the $60,000 increase approved earlier this summer by the Kansas Board of Regents.


crafty 4 years, 10 months ago

Yes, I know it's none of my business and the Meeks are very generous people, but I sure wish this would have gone for scholarships or at least had some restrictions on how the funds could be spent. I guess the Chancellor will be receiving another 13-14% pay increase while faculty and staff see nothing and students pay more for tuition.

Jayhawks64 4 years, 10 months ago

Crafty, Where do you think a majority of those scholarship dollars come from when they are given to students? Unrestricted dollars given to KU Endowment. Look at the Greater KU Fund Annual Report for 2012. You might be surprised!

merickson 4 years, 10 months ago

Here's that Greater KU Fund report, in case anyone's curious:


Matt Erickson

KU reporter

ravenjayhawk 4 years, 10 months ago

let us hope it does not go for administrative bonuses like the endowments last bonus giving.

Patricia Davis 4 years, 10 months ago

I'd rather it go to the university than to the always too highly leveraged athletics.

straightforward 4 years, 10 months ago

I could just as easily argue the opposite side of your argument. If the government taxed less people would have more disposable income to donate where they see fit. I'm sure this family has paid more than their fair share of income taxes over the years, and they're paying taxes in a different state. Their donation to KU is pure generosity and half of this country needs to wake up and realize that they are a lot of very wealthy people in this country who are bankrolling the public services enjoyed by all, whether by taxation or private contributions.

In addition, I hope this money goes to provide scholarships and the Endowment informs each of the recipients that this money came from a generous donor who made their money in oil. I'd be surprised if any of them decided to turn it down, but give them four years at KU and half of them will graduate ranting about how horrible and greedy the oil company's are.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.