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Gift of $780,000 from longtime educators creates KU scholarships

Irene Neis Kiester headshot
Irene Neis Kiester

The late Ward L. and Irene Neis Kiester devoted their lives to education. A gift of $780,000 from their estate to establish scholarships at the University of Kansas continues that tradition.

The Kiesters’ bequest created three endowed scholarships. Two are named for Ward and Irene; the third bears the name of their only child, Ward L. Kiester II, a 1972 KU alumnus and Washburn University law student who died in a 1972 car accident. The Kiesters lived in Basehor, where Ward was a longtime school administrator, and Irene taught high school for 25 years. In 1978, Ward was inducted into the Kansas Teachers Hall of Fame.

Ward L. Kiester headshot
Ward L. Kiester

“This is an incredibly important gift for students at the University of Kansas,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “Endowed scholarships such as these help KU students in perpetuity. This particular gift is even more meaningful, as it reflects Ward and Irene Kiester’s lifelong and steadfast devotion to education.”
Ward L. Kiester II headshot
Ward L. Kiester II

The Kiesters’ nephew, Gail Neis, of Wellsville, described his aunt and uncle as jovial people who were hard workers and respected in their community. Not only did they excel in their careers, but they also were central figures in Basehor, where they took on leadership roles in their church and other organizations.

Ward Kiester received two degrees from KU, a bachelor’s in 1930 and a master’s in European history in 1932. Irene Kiester earned a bachelor’s degree in education in 1941.

Ward died in 1983, Irene in 2008. Through their estate, the Kiesters also provided $75,000 to the Basehor United Methodist Church and $75,000 to the Basehor-Linwood School District to endow two scholarship funds.

The gift will be managed by KU Endowment, the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.


Michelle Keller

Assistant Vice President, Communications and Donor Relations 785-832-7336

Michelle Strickland

Media Relations 785-832-7363