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California couple donates $25 million to ‘think-outside-the-building’ McPherson College

By: - May 24, 2022 11:09 am
California philanthropists Richard and Melanie Lundquist donated $25 million to McPherson College in what was thought to be the largest contribution to a small liberal arts college in Kansas history. Melanie Lundquist spoke to graduates on Sunday at commencement. (Kansas Reflector screen capture from McPherson College video)

California philanthropists Richard and Melanie Lundquist donated $25 million to McPherson College in what was thought to be the largest contribution to a small liberal arts college in Kansas history. Melanie Lundquist spoke to graduates on Sunday at commencement. (Kansas Reflector screen capture from McPherson College video)

TOPEKA — A California couple contributed $25 million to McPherson College in what officials said was the largest gift to a small, private liberal arts college in Kansas history.

Melanie and Richard Lundquist, signers of the “Giving Pledge” promise to dedicate a majority of their wealth to charitable causes, announced the donation Sunday at the central Kansas college’s commencement. The donation capped the college’s campaign started in 2019 to raise $20 million. It was subsequently broadened to a $50 million effort. Overall, the college raised $53 million in less than three years amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

McPherson College President Michael Schneider said the generosity of Lundquist family exceeded the 135-year-old college’s previous largest gift of $10 million.

“This gift will help put our Community by Design strategic plan on a new trajectory — ensuring the new campus commons is built and strengthening the college’s academic programs as well as support the student debt project, which enables students to graduate debt-free,” Schneider said.

Melanie Lundquist said she was confident the donation was the “right big bet” because the college was a “special place that embraces the love of humanity.”

“At McPherson College, you learned how to think outside the building, not just the box — keep at it,” Lundquist said.

Her family’s connection to McPherson College began in 2012 with donation of tools to the college’s unusual antique auto restoration curriculum. In 2018, they contributed $1 million to the college’s four-year degree program in the art of restoring vehicles. They donated a Enzo Ferrari to the program this year.

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, said the donation reflected an understanding of how vital higher education institutions were to communities.

“McPherson College is important to the success of our state, and this gift will not only help the college continue to grow, but it will also greatly benefit the McPherson community,” he said.

Richard Lundquist is president and chief executive officer of Continental Development Corp., a developer of commercial, office, hotel and retail real estate projects in California. The Lindquists have worked to promote change in K-12 public education, health care delivery, the environment and innovation in California.

“We are transitioning beyond our support of K-12 public education and are hoping this gift spurs more support of well-run small liberal arts colleges in the U.S.,” Richard Lundquist said.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.

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