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Surprise gift benefits many areas of K-State

By Marisa Larson

Music sounds a bit sweeter at K-State thanks to a gift from the estate of Philip and Jeune Kirmser. The newly renovated Kirmser Hall, previously known as McCain 204, serves as classroom, rehearsal and performance space for the entire choral program at K-State. Music history, music for elementary teachers and other classes also meet in this room. "More than 1,000 students go through its doors every week," said Gary Mortenson, director of the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance. "A major part of the renovation went toward making the room acoustically sound and versatile."

The Kirmsers were always strong supporters of education and the arts and shared a love of music, languages and traveling. Philip was a professor of civil engineering at K-State for some 60 years, and Jeune was an English teacher, a school social worker, a poet and longtime school board observer. "My parents were strong believers in the power of education, having grown up in rather poor but well-educated immigrant families during the Depression," said the Kirmsers' daughter, Sandy Chastan. "Both were also strong supporters of the arts, which they felt were very important to a person’s education and quality of life. Remembering how much they had to struggle in the beginning, they felt the need to help future generations achieve their own desired levels of education."

The Kirmsers left nearly $1 million to be divided evenly between the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, the Department of Modern Languages and K-State Libraries. The language department and K-State Libraries plan to use their funds to further undergraduate research, a major component of K-State’s vision to be a top 50 public research university by 2025.

"My parents were very private about themselves, so this gift came as a big, happy surprise to my brother, my nephew and me," Chastan said. "How wonderful that Philip and Jeune Kirmser could establish such a memorable, long-lasting legacy that embodies their beliefs and illustrates their characters so well."

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