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Value added: Endowed positions enhance research and teaching

By Marisa Larson

Opportunity and commitment — those are just two things endowed faculty positions represent. Endowed positions create opportunities for faculty to do things they couldn’t do otherwise because of lack of resources. And by endowing a faculty position, donors are showing their commitment to education, research and the university.

“The donor-supported professorship has had a great impact,” said Dr. Praveen Vadlani, the Gary and Betty Lortscher Associate Professor of Renewable Energy in the College of Agriculture. “We do get funding through grants and college support, but when we have alumni or industry partners set up a fellowship, it adds value to the program. It shows that the program is recognized and worthy of support.”

Dr. Charles Stark, the Jim and Carol Brown Associate Professor in Feed Technology, couldn’t agree more. His position is funded by the Browns, who are majority owners of Key Feeds in Clay Center, Kan. “Industry donors establishing an endowed faculty position show a large commitment to what’s going on in education, teaching and research,” Stark said. “It demonstrates the commitment of industry to the education system here at K-State.”

Offering endowed faculty positions is an essential part of being a premier land-grant institution, and a key component of K-State fulfilling its goal of being a top 50 public research university by 2025. Chairs and professorships empower K-State to attract and retain the researchers and educators who are vital to the success of students and the university. They support the university as a whole, supplementing the professor’s salary while also providing additional operating support for assistants, travel, equipment, research and other expenses.

Stark joined the grain science and animal science faculties in 2013 as the coordinator of the new O.H. Kruse Feed Technology Innovation Center and the Cargill Feed Safety Research Center. He has both academic and feed industry experience. K-State alumni Jim and Carol Brown wanted to support K-State with a planned gift establishing an endowed professorship as part of their will. “When the opportunity came to hire Dr. Stark, Carol and I were excited to accelerate our planned gift to make the hiring possible,” said Jim Brown. “Finding an individual possessing industry and academic experience is hard to come by. Professors with these attributes can better prepare students to meet their career paths upon graduation.”

Vadlani, a professor of grain science and industry, works to create advanced, renewable biofuels at K-State’s Bioprocessing and Industrial Value Added Program facility. K-State alum Gary Lortscher and his wife, Betty, of Bern, Kan., fund Vadlani’s position and often visit Vadlani in his lab to discuss making biofuels from agricultural products. “Betty and I envisioned that a faculty position, currently held by Dr. Vadlani, will help provide additional resources — including graduate students and their research projects — in researching renewable energy potential,” said Gary Lortscher. “This type of research can enhance K-State’s research status, can potentially encourage value-added options for our family-farming communities, and can potentially benefit our nation in having another source of energy that is renewable.”

Donors who fund endowed faculty positions are making a permanent investment in the future of K-State. “This fellowship will continue on and help researchers for many years to come,” Vadlani said. “I feel fortunate to be the first one to receive this fellowship and to know the founder personally.”

How you can help

If you would like to support faculty, students and programs in the College of Agriculture, contact Kim Schirer at 785-532-7517 or kims@found.ksu.edu.

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Good for K-State is a magazine devoted to the inspiration and impact of private philanthropy for Kansas State University. The magazine is published for the thousands of alumni and friends who advance K-State through philanthropy and is also available online for everyone to enjoy. We invite your comments, questions and ideas. Just send an email. We are eager to hear from you and welcome your participation!

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