spencer museum of art at sunset

$200,000 in gifts bring Spencer Museum closer to reaching challenge grant

Two $100,000 gifts for the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas bring the museum closer to meeting a $1 million challenge grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The gifts, from John T. Stewart III and his wife, Linda Bliss Stewart, and from Lavon Brosseau, will be counted as matching funds toward the Mellon challenge grant. Including these gifts, the museum has received commitments of $800,000 toward the challenge grant.

The Mellon Foundation issued the challenge grant in 2008; it must be matched by September 2011. The grant is part of a long-term Mellon initiative to promote effective collaboration between university museums and academic departments, to deepen faculty engagement with the museums, and to strengthen the educational role of collections.

The Stewarts, of Lawrence and Wellington, have long ties to KU. John is a 1958 KU alumnus; his father, John T. Stewart II, graduated from KU in 1911; and the Stewarts’ four children are KU alumni. Both John and Linda are winners of the Fred Ellsworth Medallion. John received the award in 1978, and Linda in 2001. The Ellsworth Medallion is a prestigious honor for those who have provided unique and significant service to KU.

Linda Bliss Stewart is a member of the Spencer Museum of Art’s advisory board. She said the grant will enable the museum to engage more deeply with faculty and students and to provide in-depth involvement with art as an important educational tool throughout all of the KU disciplines.

Brosseau, of Concordia, made her gift to the Spencer Museum of Art in honor of her longtime friend, Jeff Weinberg, who was one of her students when she taught high school in Coffeyville. Weinberg is an assistant to the KU chancellor.

“I believe in education and in the profound importance of teaching,” Brosseau said. “The generosity of others made a college education a reality for me, but for many students it is beyond their financial reach. As James Russell Lowell said, it is ‘not what we give, but what we share, for the gift without the giver is bare.’ My sharing with others enhances my life, and is a blessing that sustains me every day.

“There is a deep and almost sacred beauty in literature and in art. Each may deal with the abstract and each may involve interpretation but each has its own reality that permits the mind to explore and to soar.

“I believe that giving for a good purpose explains itself. Making this gift to the Spencer Museum of Art in honor of Jeff Weinberg fills me with pride in knowing that these programs will enhance the academic and personal lives of students who are our future. What more could I ask for from life?”

Saralyn Reece Hardy, director of the Spencer Museum of Art, expressed gratitude for the support from the Stewarts and Brosseau, saying the gifts will enhance the museum’s efforts to support the academic mission of the university.

“We are deeply honored to receive these gifts,” Hardy said. “We are confident that, like John and Linda Stewart and Lavon Brosseau, who have contributed to this initiative, additional KU alumni and friends will step forward to assist us in meeting the Mellon endowment challenge.”

Hardy said the initiative will make a positive impact on the quality of education at KU — from the arts to the humanities to the sciences — by strengthening existing collaborations, developing new ones and cultivating joint events. In addition, expanded curricula and research will play an important role in deepening formal and informal learning at all levels.

The funds are managed by KU Endowment, the independent, nonprofit organization serving as 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.

Rosita McCoy

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Michelle Tevis

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