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Innovation and Inspiration: The Campaign for Kansas State University

Estate plan invests in engineering education innovation

An innovative program in the College of Engineering inspired one K-State graduate to include a gift in his estate plan to support computer science students.

Mark Schonhoff ’88, a retired vice president for Cerner Corporation, knew early in his high school years that he wanted to study computer science at K-State. Attending K-State basketball games with friends and family only solidified his interest in the university and his desire to learn here. Once enrolled at K-State, Schonhoff ’s passion for our school grew as he met influential professors who helped him succeed.

Schonhoff chose to invest in the college’s new Cornerstone Teaching Scholars program because he appreciated the strong start the K-State faculty provided him. Schonhoff was able to offer this investment as a gift in his will; an estate gift which allows him to retain control of the assets during his lifetime.

“I really valued the education I received at K-State and appreciated the professors I had,” Schonhoff said. “As I became increasingly successful in my career, I wanted to give back to K-State through a program that recognized the importance of good professors.”

Cornerstone Teaching Scholars provides faculty awards to encourage the best engineering instructors and professors who teach sophomore- and junior-level courses. By connecting with the strongest teachers early in their education, students are statistically more likely to stay in school and graduate.

The program was originally launched in honor of Ike Evans, class of ’65, and his wife, Letty, who decided to include a gift to support faculty in their wills.

“Professors were genuinely interested in me and wanted me to be successful,” said Evans, who recently retired as CEO of Meritor. “The professors didn’t make it easy, but I thought they genuinely wanted us to succeed. You knew they cared.”

Though still in its early stages, Cornerstone Teaching Scholars has already made a difference in the college. Dr. J. Kenneth Shultis, professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering, was recently named the first recipient of the Ike and Letty Evans Cornerstone Teaching Scholars Award.

Shultis directs the nuclear engineering program at K-State, where he brings tremendous knowledge and opportunity to young engineering students.

“What motivates me is helping the young students to see the big picture as they struggle with the minutiae of a particular subject,” Shultis said. “Instilling excitement in beginning students as they learn is the hallmark of an effective teacher.”

Through innovative programs like Cornerstone Teaching Scholars and support from generous K-State alumni and friends, the College of Engineering is improving the educational experience and advancing Kansas State University.

To learn more about including a gift in your will to support K-State, contact the Gift Planning team at 785-532-6266 or