In 2005, Mark Chapman, Kansas native and Kansas State alum, approached the history faculty at Kansas State about capturing the stories of his parents, Leo and Irene Chapman, who had farmed their entire lives near Broughton in Clay County, Kansas. Broughton was a "lost" community, having been condemned in 1966 by the Army Corps of Engineers for flood control. All that remained of Broughton were a few foundations and the memories of former residents like Leo and Irene. From 2005-2008 a rotating community of undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty in history took on the historical reconstruction of Broughton, Kansas, culminating in a full-length book, Broughton Kansas, Portrait of a Lost Town 1869-1966 (2010). While watching that project unfold, Mark recognized other communities' potential for recovery and decided to provide for the initial development of the Chapman Center for Rural Studies.
To date (2012-13) Mr. Chapman has given or pledged more than 1 million dollars in funding in support of the work of the Chapman Center for Rural Studies. In addition to a dedicated "smart" classroom, the Chapman Center contains a research room with meeting space, reference library and carrels for four Chapman Interns. The Center Director and Research Director's offices are located between and adjacent to the classroom and research rooms. A quasi-endowment fund established by Mr. Chapman in 2011 provides for the day-to-day operations of the Center in addition to undergraduate internships. Also in 2011, Mr. Chapman generously underwrote the cost of a consulting editor which allowed Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains to make its new editorial home in the Chapman Center for Rural Studies; the only peer reviewed journal at Kansas State University.
Mark Chapman views the Chapman Center for Rural Studies as a repository, not only of Kansas rural history but as a center for the preservation of American History,
"We established this center to preserve the memories and histories of an early segment of rural Kansas—and it firmly establishes Kansas State University in the prominent position of being the historians of rural Kansas while affording generous amounts of undergraduate research. Interest in the Center will build, attracting grants, gifts and graduate students, which in turn will provide it with staying power. My funding establishes a predictable cash stream so that long term plans can be made and executed."
Mark A. Chapman graduated from Kansas State University with a bachelor's degree in history and political science. He participated in Army ROTC, Acacia Fraternity, football and track. After earning his law degree at the University of Texas in Austin, he served for two years as an officer in the United States Army. He subsequently invested in real estate in Houston and in oil and gas. He is an accomplished artist and poet. His self-illustrated book of poetry, An Artist Writes, was published in 2011. In addition to supporting the Chapman Center for Rural Studies, Mark Chapman and his wife Cheryl Mellenthin have underwritten the renovation of the Chapman Gallery in Willard Hall on the Manhattan campus, numerous scholarships in Athletics and Veterinary Medicine and two Presidential Scholarships. His foundation funds approximately 100 scholarships each year.
Mark Chapman and his wife Cheryl Mellenthin make their home in Cat Spring, Texas.