A retired Kansas high school teacher, who grew up a poor farm girl, has left a $7.4 million estate gift to the University of Kansas.
Lavon Brosseau was raised on a farm without electricity or plumbing and lived in a modest two-bedroom home until her death in 2016. She was 88. Brosseau had taught English for 29 years and volunteered as a tutor well into her 80s.
"It’s not what you get in life that’s important — it’s what you share," Brosseau said in 2014, according to a KU news release. "I’m concerned about young people and their education, because I’ve lived long enough to know that the kids who have an education are able to go farther in life."
KU students majoring in the arts, humanities and education will benefit from the donation.
The $7.4 million gift brings Brosseau's lifelong contribution to KU to more than $8 million and will create several new funds named after Brosseau and her late husband, Jack, who had co-owned a small glass company.
Brosseau got a bachelor’s degree in English from Kansas State University and a master’s degree in English literature from Pittsburg State University. She taught in Kansas public high schools in Atwood, Coffeyville and Concordia. She also did a teaching stint at Cloud County Community College.
KU officials said the gift has been designated for several areas:
▪ A new Honors Scholars program for students in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.
▪ Scholarships for students at the college.
▪ A Center for Learning, which opened in 2016 at the Spencer Museum of Art.
▪ Awards and programming to encourage creativity for students in the humanities and the arts.
▪ Scholarships and prizes for students in the UKanTeach Program.
The funds will be managed by the KU Endowment, the independent fundraising arm of the university, and disbursed to the various areas, following Brosseau's final wish.
According to the release, the Brosseaus did not have children of their own but developed close relationships with some of Lavon Brosseau's former students
"Lavon was a wonderful person, very practical, witty and no-nonsense," said one former student, Jeff Weinberg, who had a 44-year career at KU. He was assistant to the chancellor and most recently a lecturer in the Honors Program. "She was a gifted teacher who truly changed the lives of many young people."
As a young teacher in Coffeyville, Brosseau, spent months tutoring a student with polio who was living with an iron lung. And after her husband died in 1998, Brosseau, a devoted religious studies teacher in her Catholic church, helped countless low-income Concordia students by giving them free computers.
"She was one of the finest, most generous philanthropists our community has ever seen," said Dana Brewer, a longtime family attorney and friend.