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K-State Today

June 27, 2011

Lost Kansas towns are found again with $400,000 gift to K-State's Chapman Center

Submitted by Julie Fosberg

Home — it’s a single word that conjures up a wide array of meanings and memories, all of which are unique and deeply embedded in each of us.

Mark Chapman, Cat Spring, Texas, has played a pivotal role in providing Kansas State University with the resources to research, preserve and share the history of rural Kansas -- including towns which no longer exist -- through the Chapman Center for Rural Studies in the K-State department of history, a project he initiated two years ago.

Now Chapman has made a gift of $400,000 to establish a quasi-endowment designed to sustain the future growth and operations of the center, advancing the program's commitment to the recovery of lived experience, lost towns and settlements, original lands and changing landscapes.

Chapman has firsthand experience with losing a home. Broughton, Kan., where Chapman spent many years in his youth, was condemned in 1966 for flood control and subsequently leveled for the construction of the Milford Dam. Fast-forward to 2008, where his passion for history and personal interest in telling Broughton's story spurred him to give a $495,000 gift to create the center.

He supplemented his initial investment with a gift of $25,000 for curriculum development grants, and a year ago he underwrote a $10,000 project bringing together undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty in K-State's department of history. Under the direction of adjunct professor M.J. Morgan, this three-year collaboration resulted in the publishing of the Chapman Center's first book, "Broughton, Kansas: Portrait of a Lost Town, 1869-1966."

"What Mark has done for the center is astounding," said Bonnie Lynn-Sherow, associate professor of history and director of the Chapman Center for Rural Studies. "Not only has he provided a roof over our heads, he has made sure that the work of our students will continue for many years, creating a new generation of Kansans who will understand, and in understanding, come to love their home state just as Mark does. Without his generosity and dedication to what we do, the stories of hundreds, if not thousands, of rural people would be lost to memory forever."

Chapman, who has built a career as an independent investor, served in K-State's Army ROTC program from 1961-1965 while earning degrees in political science and history. He went on to earn a juris doctorate from the University of Texas. He is a member of the Kansas State University Foundation Presidents Club -- a philanthropic leadership group of alumni and friends who support K-State -- and a lifetime member of the K-State Alumni Association.

Chapman said he's excited by the potential for the center and views it as a repository not only for Kansas history but also as an important center to preserve and advance U.S. 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 as historian of rural Kansas while affording generous amounts of undergraduate research," Chapman said. “Interest in it will build, attracting grants, gifts and graduate studies, 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."

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

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