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University Relations

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Jan. 13, 2005
Contact: John Scarffe, KU Endowment Association, (785) 832-7336.

California couple with Lawrence connections pledge $100K for KU

LAWRENCE -- A former television executive and a counseling psychologist who both have strong ties to Kansas have pledged $100,000 for the education, debate and film programs of the University of Kansas.

Steve and Barbara Nash Mills of Beverly Hills, Calif., made the pledge to the Kansas University Endowment Association through their estate plans. Of their gift, $50,000 will establish an award fund in Barbara Mills' name for special education and educational psychology research. The remainder will be split between two funds named for Steve Mills that will provide awards for students, one for film projects and the other for the travel expenses of debate team members.

" The generosity shown by Steve and Barbara Mills will mean more students will be able to participate in our award-winning debate program or find financial support for their film projects," said KU Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor David Shulenburger. "In addition, this gift will be important to School of Education faculty members, who are continually seeking additional resources for their research. Too often, funding for important research in education is limited. The Millses have made a wonderful commitment to the university."

Vicky Henley, former director of the Kansas Film Commission, said that Steve Mills' ties to Kansas have played an important role in the Kansas film industry. While serving as vice president at CBS in the 1970s and the 1980s, Mills, a Russell native, was in charge of all movies of the week and miniseries production.

" He was instrumental in getting the Kansas film industry started," said Henley, who is associate director of gift planning at KU Endowment. "The first movie he sent to be made in Kansas was 'Parade,' a remake of the movie 'Picnic.' The producer of that movie returned to make three more movies of the week and two miniseries. For many years, he green-lit other films to be made in Kansas, including 'Murder Ordained.' The director of that film, Mike Robe (journalism '66 and master's in film '68), came back to Kansas to film 'Burden of Proof.' Through his efforts on behalf of his home state, Steve Mills provided an incredible financial contribution to Kansas."

Steve Mills, liberal arts '51, said his television and film career didn't begin until after he left the state to study film at the Ohio State University, where he earned a master's degree in film in 1952. Few universities offered film programs at the time, he said.

"I'm happy that KU now has a film program," said Mills, who sometimes guest lectures in the KU Department of Theatre and Film. "Barbara and I want to support those students and their projects."

A former member of the KU debate team and a former debate coach at the Ohio State University, he said his memories of underfunded travel influenced his decision to help support the debate program.

Barbara Nash Mills, education '51, said it was also important to the couple to support the field of education, especially because of her father's career in the School of Education. Her father, community mental health leader Bert Nash, was a professor at KU from 1930 until his death in 1947 and is the namesake of the Bert Nash Mental Health Center in Lawrence.

Steve Mills' career in film and television has included positions at WBNS-TV in Columbus, Ohio, and KCTV5 in Kansas City, Mo. In 1960, the Mills family moved to Los Angeles, where Steve Mills first worked as a director and later vice president of programs for ABC Television. After 14 years at ABC, he left to become vice president for movies and miniseries at CBS, a position he held for 15 years. Now semi-retired, he continues to develop projects in television and film. He is currently working on a documentary for the Screen Actors Guild called "Invisible Women," which is about the industry's trend of ignoring women older than 40.

Barbara Mills earned a master's degree in psychology at the Ohio State University and a doctorate in counseling psychology at the University of California-Los Angeles. For 30 years, she worked at the John Tracy Clinic as a family counselor and taught in the graduate education program of the University of Southern California. The clinic, named for the son of Spencer and Louise Tracy, is a world-renowned nonprofit counseling and education center for families with children with hearing loss. In her work for the clinic, Mills traveled to many states and countries helping families adapt to new information and emotions.

The Millses, who have four sons and 11 grandchildren, have a home in Lawrence and visit frequently. The couple has many connections with KU and Lawrence, including Barbara Mills' brother, Robert Nash, M.D., liberal arts '51 and medicine '55. Their mother, Ruth Bushong Nash, worked as director of off-campus student housing at KU from the 1950s through the 1970s. Steve Mills' sister, Marian Godfrey, speech therapy '50, studied under Professor Emeritus Richard Schiefelbusch.

The couple's gift counted toward the goal of KU First: Invest in Excellence, the largest fund-raising campaign in KU history. KU Endowment conducted 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, nonprofit fund-raising and fund-management organization for KU.

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The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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