Perry’s $1 million gift establishes Baker chair
A philanthropist with longstanding ties to the Kansas City area has donated a $1 million gift to Baker University to support research and study of the American West, Baker president Daniel M. Lambert announced Monday.
The gift was presented to Baker by Susan L. Perry, a former Kansas City, Mo., resident who now resides in Albuquerque, N.M., to establish the Susan L. Perry Chair in Western American History.
"Susan Perry is one of the most intellectually curious people I have known," Lambert said. "Her donation here reflects her own deep interest in how people and nations are shaped by often obscure and even forgotten forces. The Perry Chair will ensure that that spark of intellectual curiosity will continue to inspire young minds for years to come."
Perry said her gift was the product of a lifelong fascination with American's westward expansion during the 19th century. A native of Plainville, Texas, Perry has supported numerous projects in the Kansas City area, including the Kansas City Zoo and the Children's Fountain. She has been a significant supporter of Baker and served five terms on the university Board of Trustees. In 1999, she was named an honorary alumna of the university.
"I have become absolutely enchanted, and I mean that, by Baker," she said.
The chair will be held by Karen Exon, professor of history and political science at Baker since 1989. Exon, of Topeka, said she plans to focus not only on the history of the West but on current issues in the region, such as water rights and wind-generated power.
Exon previously held the Ernestine Susannah Buckley Chair in history, which now will be held by Ryan Beasley, professor of political science. In his new position, Beasley will continue to teach and will be primarily responsible for leadership and administration of the History and Political Science Department.
Exon will focus more on academic work and less on administrative duties.
"This will allow me to spend more time doing research and working with students," Exon said. "I'm very honored and pleased to be accepted into this position."
Perry's gift provided the sixth endowed chair at Baker. The university also has four endowed professorships.
"An endowment is perhaps the highest expression of confidence in the university and its future and a wonderful endorsement of the education it offers," Lambert said. "And to create an endowment is to share one's hopes and dreams with generations yet to come."
Baker, founded in 1858, is the oldest university in Kansas. The university serves more than 3,000 students through the College of Arts and Sciences in Baldwin City; the School of Nursing in Topeka; and the School of Graduate and Professional Studies, with campuses in Overland Park, Wichita, Lawrence, and Lee's Summit, Mo.