By DIANE GASPER-O’BRIEN
FHSU University Relations and Marketing
Gerald and Mary Ann Yeager thought a lot of the education they received at Fort Hays State University.
Having no children of their own, the Yeagers felt that FHSU was part of their family, and they were donors to the FHSU Foundation for more than 20 years. Last year, they left a generous donation from their estate to several members of their family, including Fort Hays State.
Fort Hays State received a $1.2 million endowed gift from the Yeagers, who both graduated with business degrees from FHSU. Their gift is to be used for scholarships for business majors.
The Gerald E. and Mary Ann Yeager Business Scholarship fund is endowed, meaning it will go on in perpetuity, supporting Fort Hays State students for generations to come.
“They did very well in life, and they wanted to share it with various places. Fort Hays State was one of them,” said Judy Boor, Mary Ann Yeager’s younger sister.
Both graduates of Bazine High School in Ness County in the 1950s, the Yeagers continued their education at then Fort Hays Kansas State College.
After graduation from FHSU, Gerald enjoyed a long, successful career with Equitable Real Estate in Denver and San Francisco, retiring as vice president after 29 years with the company. Mary Ann taught business classes at Fort Hays State while her husband completed his bachelor’s degree, then worked as a budgetary analyst for Standard Oil of California (now known as Chevron) for many years.
“I think it’s absolutely wonderful that they gave this to the business college,” said Leona Gallion from Hays, a good friend of the Yeager couple during their college days.
Gallion kept in touch with the Yeagers through the years before their death. Mary Ann Yeager died in 2015, and her husband died in 2016. Gallion said she wasn’t surprised when she learned of their generous gift to FHSU.
“They were lovely, very giving people,” Gallion said. “There isn’t any doubt they hoped to help business majors like themselves.”
Dr. Mark Bannister, dean of the W.R. and Yvonne Robbins College of Business and Entrepreneurship, agreed.
“They were Ness County folks who were very dedicated to rural Kansas,” Bannister said. “They grew up in western Kansas and wanted to support students from there. Gerald shared stories of how hard he and Mary Ann worked in order to afford to attend college. He recounted that as a teenager, he unloaded 100-pound sacks of potatoes at the local grocery story when he hardly weighed that much himself. Their work ethic and Fort Hays State education would contribute to their success as professionals.”
The Yeagers were long-time donors to the FHSU Foundation before establishing an endowed gift. Scholarships from the newly endowed fund totaling nearly $20,000 were committed to students for the first time this academic year.
“This Yeager gift is a fantastic contribution,” Bannister said. “The scholarships from this fund will benefit students for many years to come. Scholarships like this help students work fewer hours and focus on school. I think the Yeagers wanted to support students who are a lot like they were and hoped that this scholarship help will enable today’s students to succeed in professional business careers much as the Yeagers did.”
The scholarships have already helped students, such as Zach Rundle, a junior from Hays.
“Giving that big of scholarship puts a lot of trust in the student to be serious about school,” said Rundle, who received one of seven $2,500 awards. There were two smaller scholarships given as well.
“I’m almost a senior,” Rundle continued, “and I can see debt accumulating. It’s nice to get a break from that toward the end of my college career.”
A year ago, Rundle – an informatics major with a minor in management – was working nearly full time while going to school.
“It was taking its toll,” he admitted. “So it’s nice to have some breathing room to be able to focus more on my school work. I really want to prove to my donors that I want to improve and be a good investment.”
Emily Prine, a sophomore business education major from Hays, agreed.
“I’m really involved on campus and have a job,” she said. “It’s nice to know I don’t have to find all the money for tuition and books.”
Landon Erway, a finance major from Larned, was checking out opportunities to play baseball after high school while working on a business degree in finance. He was trying to decide which college to attend, then last spring received an email from FHSU that he had received a Yeager Business Scholarship. That clinched the deal for Erway.
“At first, I thought it was a scam,” Erway said. “Once I found out it was real, I was very excited.”
The scholarship is renewable, provided a student maintains a 2.5 GPA.
“I want to get my MBA, too,” Erway said, “so this will definitely help a lot.”
Dwight Filbert, a nephew of the Yeager couple and one of the executors of their estate, was pleased to hear the recipients of the inaugural Yeager scholarships were appreciative of the assistance they will get in gaining an education.
“(The Yeagers) were very grateful for the education they received at Fort Hays State,” Filbert said. “They were wise investors and frugal with their money. They had a big estate. They knew where they wanted it to go, and Fort Hays State was definitely one of their interests.”
Gifts to Fort Hays State University are 100 percent tax deductible. To learn more about the Fort Hays State University Foundation and how you can support FHSU, visit http://foundation.fhsu.edu or contact their offices at 785-628-5620 or firstname.lastname@example.org.