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Alumna establishes gift in memory of her father, a former KU professor

Ethan Allen
Ethan Allen

A University of Kansas alumna has committed $400,000 through her estate to honor her father, Ethan Allen, a former chair of KU’s Department of Political Science.

Martha Allen, of Minneapolis, Minn., earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from KU in 1965. Her bequest to KU Endowment will create the Ethan P. Allen Fund for the Study of American Government. The endowed fund will provide support for a student, graduate teaching assistant or faculty member in the Department of Political Science.

“I am starting the fund for the study of the American political process because I want to do a little something to both honor my father and to advance research and study in the American political process,” Allen said. “Most of the money will come later, from my estate, but I would love it if there are still others out there who remember my father and would like to add to the fund.”

Ethan Allen was chair of the Department of Political Science from 1946 until his death in 1968. Retired political science professor Earl Nehring described him as a wonderful man and a democratic leader, who, when there was a problem to solve, would talk to everyone involved and work to achieve consensus.

“He was very considerate, thoughtful and supportive of everybody,” Nehring said. “He was a true academic, but an even better teacher — he was a very popular teacher.”

Nehring recalled that Allen was instrumental in helping fellow professor Ed Stene establish KU’s master’s of public administration program, which continues to be ranked as one of the nation’s top such programs today.

Aside from his professional accomplishments, to Martha Allen, her father was just “Daddy,” a man who in the evenings would walk down the Hill to their home on Mississippi Street. A man who taught her and her sister, Mary, to ask questions, to form their own opinions and in short, to learn how to think. A man with a passionate belief that government should come from the consent of the governed.

Like her father, Martha Allen is passionate about political science. After retiring from a career as a newspaper reporter, Allen became politically active. She joined a movement to change the Minneapolis city charter to provide for clearer lines of authority and responsibility for city employees.

“I’m still involved in this,” Allen said, “and that is a direct result of my training both in political science at KU, and also from growing up in my family.”

Elaine Sharp, chair of the Department of Political Science, said that by establishing the fund in honor of her father, Martha Allen is carrying on the extraordinary work he accomplished at KU.

“We are extremely grateful that Martha has made estate plans that will benefit students and faculty at her alma mater, and for the department to which her father dedicated his career,” said Sharp.

The fund 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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