The gift was officially left to MNU after Maron Moore's death on Dec. 2, and much of the estimated $9.5 million value is in farmland. The donation is being called a "legacy gift," which typically refers to a planned gift that a donor includes in their will or trust.
MNU Vice President for Finance Kevin Gilmore said the board of trustees’ Financial Affairs Committee will monitor the gift and come up with a plan for the how the school will use the money. However, it will likely take 18 to 24 months for the estate to be settled and for MNU to receive the gift, a typical processing time for a trust of this size.
MNU president Dr. David Spittal said that it is too early in the process to have a definite plan for how MNU will use the Moore's gift, but he predicts it will be used to help pay off university debt, specifically on the Bell and Cook Centers. Spittal also said he hopes MidAmerica will be able to stabilize tuition, which has increased by $2,000 each of the last two years.
“Reducing our debt reduces our payments which helps us keep our cost down,” Spittal said. “That helps us on the tuition side to keep tuition stable.”
Along with debt relief, Spittal said he hopes to be able to fund scholarships with the gift. Gilmore said the Moores set up the trust in the late 90's intending for the money to be used as funding for scholarships, but left specific planning to the discretion of MNU's board of trustees.
Gilmore said that 95 percent of MidAmerica's scholarships are discounts to student tuition costs, as opposed to scholarships funded by an outside party in order to pay the full cost of tuition. Gilmore said he hopes to be able to set up a scholarship fund using the interest accumulated from part of the Moore's gift as a way to have steady funding for scholarships beyond discounting tuition. However, Gilmore said that MidAmerica still needs to maintain a careful economic mindset.
“Having the gift doesn't relieve some of the financial tensions that we’re under,” Gilmore said. “I mean, we still need to scrimp on our budget, we still need to be efficient in how we operate. Those challenges for us aren't going away just because we received this gift.”
Vice President for University Advancement Jon North visited with Maron Moore several times before her passing to update her on what MidAmerica was doing and to tell her stories about its students. Their link to MNU begins with her husband's untraditional first experience with MidAmerica.
Edgar graduated from the university at the age of 60. The joke, North said, was that Maron, a lifelong educator, refused to marry Edgar until he had a degree. Edgar had been on the Kansas Legislature and held multiple different positions in the government before deciding to go back to college to earn his degree while working closely with Dr. R. Curtis Smith, MidAmerica's first president.
“It’s an amazing story,” Spittal said. “And it’s a testimony to how when you do something good you just never know how God is going to use that.”
The Moores were dedicated to investing in both MidAmerica and the Olathe Community, North said. After Edgar's death, Maron helped fund documentaries about the history of Olathe, the construction of a new barn at Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm, and Johnson County Community College's culinary program and campus renovations. Their passion for the Olathe community and love of MidAmerica went hand in hand. Following the death of Dr. Smith in 1989, Edgar wrote that MidAmerica was the best thing that had happened to Olathe.
“I like to look at the lights on the campus of Mid-America and wonder just how far those lights are really shining,” Moore wrote. “They go far from the Olathe Community into the dark places of the world and they bring light and hope.”
North said their final gift to MidAmerica is an investment into not only the school, but into the Olathe community and the world which will be impacted by MidAmerica students. Giving a legacy gift, North said, is their last way of telling the next generation what they believed was important.
“It’s the largest gift we’ve ever received,” Spittal said. "These were wonderful people who did a very blessed thing for us and I want to recognize and respect that, so right now we're just saying 'thank you Lord, this is really, really amazing.'"
Updated for clarification on Feb. 18, 2016.