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K-State Today

February 29, 2012

K-State alumnus establishes Hartman Family Scholarship in food science and industry

Submitted by Andrew C Zender

Bill and Marla Hartman, Visalia, Calif., are members of the KSU Foundation President's Club and 1863 Circle as well as lifetime members of the K-State Alumni Association.

When Bill Hartman came from Preston to Manhattan to attend college at K-State, he experienced culture shock. It was the largest town he’d ever lived in. The beautiful campus and its limestone buildings left him awestruck — but he wasn’t sure if he’d come to the right place or if he’d fit in.

The feeling quickly vanished. He joined a fraternity, loved watching basketball games and most importantly, appreciated that his instructors took a personal interest in his success. After graduating from the College of Agriculture in 1979, he began his career in the dairy industry, working for a small creamery in Council Grove. An opportunity to join the booming dairy industry in California led him west, and after a few more years building up experience, he formed Sierra Dairy Laboratory Inc.

Today, Sierra, which employs 29 people, functions as a laboratory that tests dairy products — including two-thirds of the milk in California. As the owner and president of the company, Hartman is proud of its growth during the last 21 years. He fondly recalls his days at K-State and views the university as a major catalyst for change in his life as a student trying to envision his future.

Because of the impact that K-State had on his life, Hartman and his wife, Marla, who live in Visalia, Calif., have established the Hartman Family Scholarship in food science and industry at K-State. Hartman shared reflections on how K-State put him on the path to success, his love for the university and the importance of giving to support those who’ve made a difference in your own life.

What was your experience like at K-State — and how does it continue to be a part of your life?

I came to K-State as a kid and left as a young adult with a completely different view of the world, who I wanted to become and how I was going to get there. It transformed my whole life. We love Manhattan so much that we’ve talked about it as a place to retire someday. It’d be wonderful to be a part of that college atmosphere again and to be a part of the community there. Things are always happening.

Of the different ways to support a university, why did you choose to establish a scholarship?

A scholarship is going to directly support a student. That’s the future of K-State. I don’t want a good student to have to choose a different university because of financial challenges. If a scholarship helps them select K-State and someday become a part of the alumni community, it’s going to alter what the university can do in the future. I just want to make sure that good students can choose the right place.

What most excites you about making this gift?

K-State gave me a lot for many years, and I’m excited to give back. We’ve got a new community of people to talk to and interact with. I feel like I’m involved again and not just watching the scores, although I am a big sports fan. I feel great about being involved at a different level.

In your own words, what is philanthropy — and why is it important?

Philanthropy is giving to create a social benefit, a change in our society. Being in food science, I’m very passionate about food, and we need more people in this area. I want people to be educated about the way food is handled, its safety and what we’re eating. I believe every graduate in food science can help make that social change in our society.

What do you love most about K-State?

I love going back and seeing a beautiful, magnificent campus that I can be proud of. I’ve taken friends and family there who’ve never seen it. I’m very proud of what K-State has become and the direction it’s headed. I like to be able to say that I’m part of that — to say that’s my alma mater.