LAWRENCE — A retired high school teacher in Concordia has left a $7.4 million estate gift to benefit students majoring in the arts, humanities and education at the University of Kansas.
Lavon Brosseau grew up on a farm without electricity or plumbing and lived in a modest two-bedroom home until her death in 2016 at the age of 88. She taught English for 29 years and volunteered as a tutor well into her 80s. Combined with her lifetime giving, she donated $8 million to KU.
“It’s not what you get in life that’s important — it’s what you share,” said Brosseau in 2014. “I’m concerned about young people and their education, because I’ve lived long enough to know that the kids who have an education are able to go farther in life.”
Lavon was preceded in death in 1998 by her husband, Jack Brosseau, who co-owned a small glass company. The Brosseaus loved the land and used their savings to buy farmland, which became a large part of their estate.
The $7.4 million estate gift will create several new funds named after Jack and Lavon Brosseau. They are designated to benefit several areas:
- A new Honors Scholars program for students in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (as part of the KU Honors Program)
- Scholarships for students at the College
- A Center for Learning, which opened in 2016 at the Spencer Museum of Art
- Awards and programming to encourage creativity for students in the humanities and the arts
- Scholarships and prizes for students in the UKanTeach Program.
While the Brosseaus had no children, they remained close to several of Lavon’s former students. One of them is Jeff Weinberg, who had a 44-year career at KU, which included serving as assistant to the chancellor and most recently, as lecturer in the Honors Program.
“Lavon was a wonderful person, very practical, witty and no-nonsense,” said Weinberg. “She was a gifted teacher who truly changed the lives of many young people.”
After Jack’s death in 1998, Lavon helped countless students in Concordia with limited financial means by giving them a free computer. She tutored students who needed academic help and was a devoted religious studies teacher in her Catholic church. Her faith was the cornerstone in her lifelong generosity toward others.
As a young teacher in Coffeyville, she spent months as a volunteer tutoring a student with polio who was living with an iron lung.
Brosseau earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Kansas State University and a master’s degree in English literature from Pittsburg State University. She taught in public high schools in the Kansas cities of Atwood, Coffeyville and Concordia, as well as Cloud County Community College.
“She was one of the finest, most generous philanthropists our community has ever seen,” said Dana Brewer, a longtime family attorney and friend from Concordia.
KU Endowment is the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.