Love of Education Inspires Lifetime Giving

(Photo above) ADVENTURE AFICIONADOS: Dewitt and Bobbye Potter loved to explore other countries and the outdoors, particularly the mountains.

World travelers. Nature lovers. Sports enthusiasts. Lifelong learners. Devoted parents and grandparents. Avid Jayhawks.
These are just a few of the words that describe the vibrant lives and generous spirits of Dewitt and Bobbye Potter.

The Potters, who lived in Tulsa, Okla., placed a high value on education and were dedicated to KU. Their gifts provided unrestricted support to the university for decades. They also created a charitable remainder trust that established the Dewitt L. and Bobbye Ruth Potter Opportunity Fund in 2016, to be used for KU’s greatest needs. 

“My father, some of my children and I areall KU alumni,” Dewitt Potter said in 1989.“We felt some loyalty and duty to provide continuing financial resources for the University of Kansas to accomplish the things that make
it internationally famous.”

Their KU connection was natural. Dewitt’s father, Earl Potter, was a 1913 KU graduate and a journalist for Kansas Athletics. Dewitt grew up in Lawrence. At KU, he played basketball for Phog Allen and was a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity. He graduated with a degree in geology in 1942. Dewitt’s brother Richard also was a KU alumnus, and they made a gift to Adams Alumni Center in their father’s honor.   

A small flock of Jayhawk figurines, some more than 100 years old, a Jayhawk letter opener, a freshman beanie and a fraternity paddle are part of Melissa Potter Atkinson’s KU collection. “This memorabilia is an indication of dad’s attachment to the university,” said Atkinson, a 1972 alumna. “He loved KU.”

Dewitt Potter, who died in 2004 at the age of 83, was born in Kansas City, Mo. After graduating from KU, he began a career with Phillips Petroleum Company. Shortly after, he served in the Engineer Combat Battalion of the U.S. Army during World War II. He went back to work for Phillips first in Texas and then in Calgary, Canada. In 1962, he joined Reading and Bates Offshore Drilling Company and concluded his tenure as president of their development company.  

ROCK CHALK ROOTS: Dewitt (front right) and Bobbye (front left) at his Lawrence childhood home with his parents and grandma in the 1940s.

Bobbye Potter was born in in Sperry, Okla. Her family moved to Cherryvale, Kan., when she was a child, where they operated businesses including the Kellenberger Cafe. Always a gifted student, Bobbye earned a bachelor’s in library science at the University of Tulsa when she had four children at home. She then received a bachelor’s in French, which she spoke fluently, and also earned a master’s in history. She died in 2016 at the age of 92.

The Potters visited 34 countries and were enthusiastic students of the world’s cultures. They also were active with community organizations. Atkinson said her parents took great pleasure in setting up trusts benefitting their alma maters and arts institutions in Tulsa and Banff, Alberta, Canada. 

“Memories were dear to my parents, but they were always ready to try something new,” Atkinson said. “They had an unshakeable belief that education was the doorway to life’s opportunities.”