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Leadership group sets momentum for next campaign for KU

April 12, 2010

Though the years have taken Jerry Jennett, business ’63, many miles away from the University of Kansas, he still holds KU dear to his heart.

He and his wife, Kay, recently provided $200,000 to KU Endowment to establish an endowed scholarship at KU. The Jerry and Kay Jennett Scholarship is for undergraduate business majors who work for or hold internships with KU Athletics.

Kay and Jerry Jennett

The Jennetts live in Valdosta, Ga., where Jerry is CEO of Georgia Gulf Sulfur Corporation. Kay is an artist who graduated from the Columbus College of Art and Design. They remain avid KU basketball fans, and the family Jayhawk fan base also includes Kay’s 86-year-old mother, who lives in Ohio and follows KU basketball like clockwork.

“We’re trying to help the business school and potentially help those students who work around athletics,” Jennett said. “Every program has some students who are helping, and most of the time they’re unsung people. If there’s a way some of those students can be encouraged to get some business classes, or some sort of marketing or statistics courses, that would be great.”

Bill Fuerst, dean of the School of Business, expressed his appreciation. “This generous scholarship from the Jennetts will make a difference for students who want to combine a business degree with their interest in working in athletics,” Fuerst said. “We now have a valuable way to support our undergraduate students who work behind the scenes in athletics as they pursue their business degree.”

Jennett knows firsthand the importance of scholarships and jobs for college students. He worked his way through KU by working numerous odd jobs, including a semester helping in the kitchen of the Chi Omega sorority house. His “pay” consisted of meals and an apartment in the basement. He took other jobs in the summers. He didn’t always have as much time as he would have liked for recreational activities. But the important thing, he said, was that his jobs, and financial assistance from his parents, gave him the college education he needed.

When Jerry thinks about helping others, particularly students, he recalls an uncle who grew up in a single-parent home during the Depression. A high school football coach helped his uncle gain a college scholarship. Then, his college football coach let him live in his own home during college. The uncle ended up earning a Ph.D. and leading a successful career in education.

“My uncle would have had a much more difficult life had people not stepped up to help him make it through school,” Jennett said. “That’s why we feel it’s important to do what we can to help students today.”

Since moving to Valdosta 30 years ago, the Jennetts have developed deep ties to the community. They have supported Valdosta State University, where Jerry has served on the university foundation’s board of trustees. Jerry is one of only two non-student adults who sing with the Valdosta State University choir. He also has volunteered with the Alapaha Area Council of the Boy Scouts and participates in the National Scout Jamboree. Kay serves on the Valdosta Symphony Board of Directors and volunteers with the local Humane Society.

Nonetheless, KU will always hold a warm place in his heart, Jerry said: “In the first third of my life, the most important thing to me was graduating from the School of Business at the University of Kansas.”

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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April 12, 2010
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