Legacy of learning

Estate gifts from alumna Varena Mechsner support multiple areas of the College of Health and Human Sciences.

Varena Mechsner, Vee to her friends, wasn’t one to sit around and wait to be told what to do or how to help. She sought out opportunities to make a difference. The College of Health and Human Sciences benefited from Vee’s generosity and desire to mentor students. Though Vee passed away January 18, 2021, she left a legacy to the college through four gifts — an excellence fund for the college, faculty support, a scholarship for students, and an excellence fund for the Center on Aging.

Vee Blattner (Mechsner) grew up in rural northcentral Kansas and came to Kansas State University to work toward a degree in home economics education. After graduating in 1959, she taught home economics across Kansas, in Florida and ended up in Memphis, Tennessee. Vee returned to Manhattan toward the end of 2019 and immediately reached out to people at K-State to see how she could get involved.

“I asked her if she would be interested in serving as a mentor to a student in my senior seminar course,” said Gayle Doll, director of the Center on Aging. “She enthusiastically said yes. Remarkably, she ended up being matched with a student that was from her same county in rural northern Kansas. This was a purely serendipitous pairing, and they were more than delighted with each other’s company.”

Vee’s financial gift to the center will continue to benefit students and seniors in the community. “The excellence fund from Vee will allow us to offer extra-curricular, intergenerational activities to our students, such as sky-diving, zip-lining, attending sporting events and a tour of older adult housing and living opportunities,” Doll said. “It’s opportunities like these that students recall as being the highlight of their college careers and sometimes the turning point that makes them commit to working with older adults.”

Creating a scholarship is another way Vee continues to help students. “Scholarships for the College of Health and Human Sciences students are invaluable. The scholarship support allows our students to participate in transformational experiences such as research, professional development, education abroad, professional mentoring and internships,” said Shawna Jordan, assistant dean. “These opportunities are vital for our students as they prepare for their future careers. The support from our generous donors allows the students to continue in their degree programs while assisting to lessen the financial burden. Besides helping to recruit new students to K-State, scholarships allow us to provide support for the continuing students in their pursuit of a diploma. We are thankful for the generous gifts of our donors who give back to assist all of our students.”

Faculty, as well as students, need support and investment in their professional development. Acknowledging this, Vee created a faculty award for the college. “Faculty support has been one of my priorities since I became dean,” said Dean John Buckwalter. “We need to support faculty, who often turn around and support students with their awards. It’s nice to have a way to support faculty. With the environment of decreased state funding, being able to reward faculty can be a difference maker in recruiting and retaining outstanding faculty.”

Vee’s fourth gift to the college, the excellence fund, provides the opportunity for the dean of the college to be financially nimble. “The power of excellence funds is in their flexibility,” Buckwalter said. “Something, like what we saw with COVID-19, can create unknown situations where these funds can help. And the unknowns aren’t always bad. Excellence funds can provide seed funding to support innovative ideas and research. They help us be more nimble and responsive. It’s a powerful statement when a donor trusts an institution to use excellence funds wisely.”

Vee spent her life teaching and mentoring. With her estate gifts to the college, that legacy lives on.

To support the College of Health and Human Sciences, you can give online or contact Jeff Haug, director of development for the college by email or at 785-775-2061.

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Jeff Haug

Jeff Haug Director of Development - Health and Human Sciences