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KU alumnus leaves $2.5 million estate gift for scholarships

October 21, 2009

KU alumnus Paul Brooker thought so much of his alma mater that he left an estate gift of $2.5 million to KU Endowment for unrestricted scholarship support of University of Kansas students.

Paul Brooker and his wife, Mildred Hoffman, earned bachelor’s degrees in KU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 1931. They met and dated while in college and married three years after graduation.

Mildred and Paul Brooker

Mildred died in 1991, Paul in 2000. His estate gift to KU took effect in 2009 following the death of his second wife, Virginia Brooker.

Brooker and his first wife, who lived in Wichita, were long-time supporters of KU. In 1975, he established an unrestricted scholarship named for her. His recent estate gift created two additional scholarships, one named for him and the other in both their names.

Marlesa Roney, vice provost for student success, said Brooker’s estate gift will make a significant difference for students who receive support from these scholarships. “The university family is grateful to Mr. Brooker for his commitment to ensuring that others will be able to benefit from the many outstanding opportunities at the University of Kansas,” said Roney.

Paul Brooker, who grew up in Marion, Kan., carried with him a lifelong passion for what he had learned at KU. In a letter he wrote to KU Endowment in 1989, Brooker stressed the importance of working hard in college. He was proud of having made the dean’s honor roll one semester and of his good student performance overall.

“I accomplished this by extremely hard work and religiously attending classes,” Brooker said. “I do not have the IQ of many other people, but I have drive and ambition.”

The Brookers’ daughter, Diane Wingate, of Wichita, said four generations of her family graduated from KU. This included Diane and her husband, Garold, and their four sons, Timothy, Steven, Michael and the late Thomas Wingate. The Wingates’ grandchildren also are attending or plan to attend KU.

Her family’s ties to KU are lasting, she said: “I don’t think there’s a person in our family who didn’t want to live in Lawrence after we were through going to school there.”

Wingate described her father as a charismatic and dynamic businessman who devoted much of his career to his Wichita firm, Brooker Sales. The company helped retail stores throughout the U.S. and Canada manage special promotions and store closings. Today, Wingate and her husband own and operate the company, now named Wingate Sales. Diane said her mother, who grew up in Abilene, Kan., had a sweet disposition and was beloved by her friends.

“My parents were a really neat couple,” Wingate said. “They got so much out of KU. I think they just wanted to give something back to the university.”

In another letter Brooker wrote to KU Endowment in 1989, he expressed his fondness for the university.

“My wife and I both hated to leave Lawrence and we figured some way we could come back and live there someday, but that is not going to be our situation,” Brooker said. “I think the best four years of our lives were spent in Lawrence, Kansas, at the university.”

The gift will be managed by KU Endowment, the official fundraising and fund-management foundation for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.
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October 21, 2009
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Michelle Keller
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