Virginia Wulfkuhle’s ties to the University of Kansas go back to the very beginning. Her great-grandmother, Flora Richardson Colman, was the first graduate of KU and received the university’s first diploma in 1873.
The faded parchment was found in a cousin’s attic and eventually entrusted to Wulfkuhle, a KU alumna herself who earned a degree in anthropology in 1969. She donated the historic document on behalf of the Richardson family to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library as soon as she could.
“My basement is pretty safe, even from a tornado, but having it made me nervous,” Wulfkuhle said. “Besides, a document like that should be in public ownership.”
The diploma was just one gift among many in Wulfkuhle’s long history of generosity to the University of Kansas. She made her first gift in 1979 to support the Greater KU Fund and has given to a variety of areas since then. Her support has grown more consistent over time; this year marks her 20-year giving streak as a Jayhawk Faithful donor.
Although choosing a favorite area of support is difficult, Wulfkuhle is pleased to have been part of the Grotesque Renewal Project through the Historic Mount Oread Friends. The project recreated the limestone creatures that graced the exterior of the Natural History Museum and Dyche Hall. She and her sister, Linda Wulfkuhle Cecchini, sponsored a study carrel in Watson Library. The plaque includes their names and also honors their grandmother, Nellie, and Nellie’s sister, Wilimina; and their mother, Margaret and Margaret’s sister, Virginia, after whom Wulfkuhle is named — three generations of sisters.
Wulfkuhle lives on a remnant of the family farm owned by her great-grandparents, O.A. and Flora Colman. The 40-acre property sits in full view of Mount Oread, just west of Lawrence. She plans to donate the property, her “little piece of the prairie,” to KU for use by the Kansas Biological Survey. Many members of her family were teachers, and the importance of education was impressed on her from a young age. She is thrilled to know the land will educate future Jayhawks.
“My mother used to look around and say, ‘Isn’t it wonderful that we live in the most beautiful place in the world?’” Wulfkuhle said. “That others will experience it is a great joy.”