Aug. 23, 2004

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Contact: John Scarffe, KU Endowment, (785) 832-7336

Couple's donation to create professorship in top-ranked special education program

LAWRENCE -- A personal experience with the care and commitment demonstrated by special education teachers has influenced a Georgia couple to create a professorship at the University of Kansas School of Education, Dean Angela Lumpkin announced today.

Atlanta residents Delbert L. "Del" and Barbara Ossian Williamson have pledged $250,000 to the Kansas University Endowment Association to establish the professorship. Their gift is expected to be matched by Del's former employer, General Electric Co., to create a total fund of $500,000. The fund also will receive additional income from the Kansas Partnership for Faculty of Distinction.

"Cerebral palsy claimed the lives of our twin boys born prematurely in 1968, but for six years we experienced the care and commitment of a number of special education teachers," said Barbara, education '63. "Those teachers were there for us when we had a special need, and we hope to impact the lives of other families by helping to enhance the already strong special education program at KU."

U.S. News, which ranks a variety of graduate programs annually, has named the Department of Special Education's graduate program the top public university program eight times, most recently in the 2005 edition of "America's Best Graduate Schools."

Lumpkin said the professorship would help draw an outstanding faculty member to the school's acclaimed program.

"The opportunity to attract another distinguished professor to this department will strengthen and expand the excellent contributions of our faculty," she said. "This new professor will be an outstanding researcher and thus will add to the quality and quantity of scholarship produced by this department. Students will have the opportunity to learn from and conduct research with this person, and people with disabilities will ultimately benefit from that education."

The professorship is the second one the Williamson family has established during KU First: Invest in Excellence, the largest fund-raising campaign in the history of KU. In 2001, about one week after KU Endowment officials announced the initial KU First goal of $500 million, Lumpkin announced that the Williamsons had pledged a $250,000 gift and matching funds from General Electric to create a $500,000 fund for a professorship in counseling psychology. The fund, which also has received support through the Kansas Partnership for Faculty of Distinction, was recently endowed and a nationwide search to fill it will begin this year.

"We decided to give a second time in three years because the window of opportunity for matching funds from General Electric and the state of Kansas is still open," Barbara said. "That will allow us to increase the impact of our gift for the University of Kansas, just as we did with the first gift."

Barbara, a Topeka native, taught at Central Junior High School in Kansas City, Mo., and for two years at a middle school in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She has volunteered for a variety of philanthropic and community organizations over the years, including school tutoring programs, Literacy Volunteers and the Girl Scouts.

Del, who studied engineering at KU in the mid-1950s, earned a bachelor's degree in engineering from Finlay College in Kansas City, Mo., in 1959. He worked for General Electric for 45 years and retired as president of Power Systems Global Sales in February 2004.

The Williamsons married in1963, shortly after Barbara graduated from KU. They have one daughter, Sara, who lives in Wellington, Fla.

KU Endowment is conducting KU First on behalf of KU through 2004 to raise in excess of $600 million for scholarships, fellowships, professorships, capital projects and program support. KU Endowment serves as the independent, non-profit fund-raising and fund-management organization for KU.


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