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K-State Today

May 29, 2014

Alumna's gift supports K-State Proud Student Opportunity Awards

Submitted by Julie Lea

A gift of $550,000 from Kansas State University alumna Mary Vanier, Manhattan, will benefit the K-State Proud Student Opportunity Awards fund.

K-State Proud is a student-led, nationally recognized fundraising campaign for the university. Guided by the leadership of Student Foundation, the campaign encourages students to show their K-State pride through philanthropy.

All student campaign donations establish Student Opportunity Awards for fellow students. In the first eight years of the campaign students have established a culture of philanthropy by raising more than $833,000 for their peers who are struggling financially. More than 450 Student Opportunity Awards have been made since the K-State Proud campaign began in 2007.

The awards are allocated by a student committee in consultation with the Office of Student Financial Assistance to provide financial assistance for students who have demonstrated extreme financial need or those who need temporary financial assistance. Special consideration is given to students whose future at the university may be in jeopardy and to students who have exhausted all other forms of financial assistance.

"I have been so impressed with K-State Proud and the young men and women who are involved with Student Foundation," Vanier said. "The spirit of philanthropy they have created across campus and the professional way in which they administer K-State Proud funds is just remarkable."

Vanier's fund is endowed, which means it will provide a continuous source of support for Student Opportunity Awards. The principal of the fund is maintained and invested in perpetuity, and awards are made from earnings.

Vanier, who graduated from Kansas State University in 1989 with a degree in hotel and restaurant management, is president of Grand Mere Development Inc. Before returning to Manhattan in 1999, she worked at The Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs in special events, marketing and public relations.

In 2011 she received the North American Interfraternity Conference Foundation's Outstanding Philanthropist Award for her exceptional generosity and philanthropic leadership within the Greek community on a national and international level. She has established endowments and provided leadership for the Gamma Phi Beta International Sorority and the K-State chapter.

At Kansas State University she has made significant gifts to the Center for Basic Cancer Research, Golf Course Management and Research Foundation and Kansas State Athletics. She donated land for Manhattan's first hospice, The Good Shepherd Hospice House.

Vanier currently serves on the board of directors of the Kansas State University Foundation and the Gamma Phi Beta Foundation. She is a founder of Manhattan Community Foundation and Flint Hills Area Panhellenic Association and has served on the boards of Boys and Girls Club of Manhattan, Kansas 4-H Foundation, Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce, St. John's Military School and Mercy Health Foundation.

Vanier is a member of the KSU Foundation's Presidents Club, a philanthropic leadership organization for friends and alumni of the university.

"Mary Vanier's gift speaks volumes about her personal interest in helping our students when there simply is no place to turn," said Pat Bosco, vice president for student life and dean of students. "Her support for Student Opportunity Awards comes when we need it the most, and it will be crucial to our goals for student retention. Our culture of family at K-State means that we never want to lose a worthy student due to financial hardship."

"The committee has not only seen an increase in number of students in need, but also an increase in the average award amount per student," said Abby Guenther, the student chair of the Student Opportunity Awards committee for the past academic year. "The award requirements for the students who apply for the awards have not changed because of Mary Vanier's gift, but it has enabled the committee to be confident in awarding students without falling short for future applicants. Her gift is already making a noticeable impact in the lives of students at K-State."

Philanthropic contributions to Kansas State University are coordinated by the KSU 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.