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K-State Today

March 24, 2011

Lifelong love begun at K-State remembered through $500,000 gift to engineering

By Julie Fosberg


Just about everyone who visits Kansas State University's Call Hall falls in love -- with the ice cream at the hall's dairy bar, that is.

But when Harold Neff walked into Call Hall as a student in the 1940s, he fell in love for a completely different reason: the beautiful girl working behind the counter.

Jane Massey was a Manhattan native and K-State student, working her way through school at the Call Hall dairy bar. As fate would have it, Neff loved ice cream. Before long, a helpful smile and a friendly hello turned into a lifelong love and, eventually, a meaningful gift to K-State's College of Engineering.

Neff, a native of Lakin, served in World War II as part of Gen. Omar Bradley's headquarter group before enrolling at K-State. He graduated in 1949 with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. Neff and Massey were married not long after graduation, and eventually settled in Tyler, Texas, where they raised their four children. Neff also built a successful oil and gas firm, Harold Neff and Associates Inc.

Neff was active in the Society of Professional Engineers, serving as president of the society and as a member of its East Texas branch, and he was a member of the Texas Professional Engineering Board. He received several special achievement awards from those professional organizations. As an active member of the Tyler community for almost 60 years, he was a member of the Civitan Club, actively supported the Indian Guides and Boy Scout organizations and served on the Airport Planning Board.

When Neff died in February 2008 at 83, it wasn't long before his wife and children began thinking about establishing a faculty endowment at K-State in his honor.

In late 2010, Jane Neff made a commitment of $500,000 to the College of Engineering at K-State to establish the Harold O. and Jane C. Massey Neff Professorship in Mechanical Engineering. The college contributed a matching amount that brought the fund to professorship level.

"Our parents both believed in the greatest of adventures, 'the adventure of the human mind,' as Mr. Justice Holmes succinctly put it," said Marilee Doud, the Neffs' daughter. "They were curious about the world, and both valued the time they spent at K-State, where learning was both educational and fun. It was at K-State where they started to understand that there is always more exploration, more pioneering to be done. They wanted other young people to have a similar realization through their own unique experience at K-State, with instruction from a high caliber professor."

The professorship will be awarded to a faculty member in K-State's department of mechanical and nuclear engineering, with a focus in the mechanical engineering area. Professorships are one of the highest forms of recognition for faculty members, and are a reward for dedication and a draw for talented new faculty members from other universities.

Jane Neff is now a member of the Kansas State University Foundation's Presidents Club, a philanthropic leadership organization for friends and alumni of K-State. Before her husband died, the Neffs had been loyal donors to the university for more than 40 years. They contributed regularly to the Engineering Program Enhancement Fund, the university's Greatest Needs Fund and the Engineering Scholarship Fund.

"My parents were both students and teachers all their lives, interested in just about everything -- with much of this interest awakened in the unlikely venue of a small Kansas town, on the beautifully manicured, grandly constructed campus of K-State," Doud said.

"We're so humbled that Harold's family chose to remember him by establishing a professorship at K-State," said John English, dean of the College of Engineering. "Clearly, the time the Neffs spent here was very special to them, and we're pleased to be able to offer a professorship in their honor."

Philanthropic contributions to K-State are coordinated by the Kansas State University Foundation. Staff at the foundation work with university partners to build lifelong relationships with alumni, friends, faculty, staff and students through involvement and investment in the university.