by Chris Killian

One of the top private colleges in the United States, Kalamazoo College attracts some of the best teaching talent in the country, a dedicated corps that provides students a world-class education with a personal touch.
And Kay Seaman Lewis and E. Turner Lewis want to keep it that way.

The husband and wife team recently created a $250,000 endowment in support of faculty development, a gift that they hope will provide much needed funds for the College's 105 faculty members.

"It doesn't matter what's done with the money as long as it provides faculty with opportunities they otherwise might not have," said Kay, a 1965 graduate who majored in Spanish and studied abroad in Madrid, Spain. Faculty development, she added, could easily be eclipsed by other, perhaps more glamorous, institutional needs, but it is essential to in order to maintain high standards of teaching.

After a successful career as a veterinarian, Turner--a 1963 graduate and 18-year member of the board of trustees--is retired. He and his wife currently live in Wakefield, Mass., but are planning to move to Halifax, Vermont, after a house they're building there is completed.

The Lewis' commitment to their alma mater has never wavered. The education they received at "K" allowed them to have successful careers, and they want to ensure that future generations of students have the same opportunities they did.

"We have the means, and Kay and I are making a commitment," Turner said. "If you don't have good faculty, the school loses its reputation. We want to keep 'K' an elite institution."

Administration and faculty are delighted with the endowment.

"It's massive what this will mean for us," said Chris Latiolais, an associate professor of philosophy. "The faculty feels a deep gratitude to (the Lewises). Their gift comes at a propitious time, and its benefits really are incalculable."

Resources are required for faculty to provide their students with experiential learning opportunities and integrate material from other disciplines to create a richer and deeper learning experience. The funds will also allow faculty the opportunity to travel abroad to present papers, to augment their research facilities, and to purchase much needed supplies that in the past they've had to purchase on their own. The endowment also will help to attract and retain talented faculty.

Provost Mickey McDonald said the endowment income will be applied in three main areas:

  • Establishment of young faculty in their disciplines;

  • Pursuit (through worldwide symposia, for example) and sharing of scholarly work; ;

  • Development of new curricula and better ways of teaching.

"It doesn't matter what's done with the money as long as it provides faculty with opportunities they otherwise might not have"
"Continuing to invest in faculty development helps us bring and retain the best and brightest," McDonald said. "Faculty working with students really shapes and improves their lives. The Lewises' willingness to give to ensure a strong and exceptional faculty is an incredible testament to their commitment to 'K.' I'm extremely grateful to them and to all the alumni that give back to the institution."
Turner is hoping the generosity of "K" alumni keeps up, too. Even in these grim economic times, he has vowed to keep the endowment at a quarter of a million dollars. But he'd like to see it grow much more.

"I'd like it to go significantly higher than what it is now," he said. "Hopefully I can add to it. One million dollars? Well, that's a stretch for me, but if we can get more people to be generous, then maybe we can do it.
"Having resources for faculty is just so important. It makes 'K' a special place. I love the school. I met my wife there. I plan to give back as much as I can as long as I can."

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