Alumna Carol Cope leaves lasting legacy with $12.6 million estate gift
The gift represents the largest ever donation to UNK and provides permanently endowed support for students, faculty and programs both at UNK and UNL.
Posted: Wed, Sep 4, 2013
Sept. 4, 2013 — The estate of longtime Kearney resident and philanthropist Carol Cope has made a $12.6 million gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation to provide permanently endowed support for students, faculty and programs at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
"This is the largest single gift in the history of the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and we are truly grateful for the generosity of the Copes," said UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen. "This gift will forever change this institution."
The gift establishes multiple permanently endowed funds, which will generate annual support for student scholarships, faculty awards, academic programs and more. Of the total gift, $11.6 million benefits UNK, and $1 million is directed to UNL for endowed faculty professorships.
"This gift is a blend of generosity and vision that will significantly impact students for decades to come," Kristensen said.
Carol Cope's legacy will be celebrated Sept. 5 at UNK's Carol Cope Day, the Lopers' football season opener matchup against visiting Washburn University. The game starts at 6 p.m. at Ron and Carol Cope Stadium. The gift will be recognized during the game.
Brian Hastings, president and CEO of the University of Nebraska Foundation, said, "This most generous gift represents the lasting legacy of Ron and Carol Cope at the University of Nebraska. The magnitude of its effect will be felt by generations of students and educators. Even years from now, students will continue to be known as proud Cope scholars."
Here's the breakdown of how the Cope estate gift will support the university:
–Ron and Carol Cope UNK Scholarship — A $1.8 million endowed fund to provide about 20 annual scholarship awards of about $4,000 each, with half of the awards made to UNK College of Business and Technology students and half awarded to students studying in other colleges on campus.
–Ron and Carol Cope UNK Athletics Scholarship — A $1 million endowed fund to provide between 30 and 40 scholarships each year to UNK student athletes.
–Ron and Carol Cope Professorship in the UNK College of Business and Technology — A $500,000 endowed fund to provide annual stipends to outstanding faculty.
–Ron and Carol Cope UNK Professorship — A $500,000 endowed fund to provide annual stipends to outstanding faculty members in any UNK college.
–Ron and Carol Cope UNL College of Business Administration Professorship — A $500,000 endowed fund to provide annual stipends to outstanding UNL business faculty members.
–Ron and Carol Cope UNL School of Music Professorship — A $500,000 endowed fund to provide annual stipends to outstanding UNL music faculty members.
–Ron and Carol Cope UNK Excellence Fund — A $4.6 million endowed fund to enable UNK to direct support to high-priority projects across campus.
–Cope Stadium — A $3 million gift to complete an earlier commitment made by the Copes to support UNK athletic expansion and recreation.
–Ron and Carol Cope Fund for the Frank House — A $262,500 endowed fund to provide annual program and maintenance support for the Frank House museum at UNK.
Hastings said the Cope gift helps meet the goals of the university's Campaign for Nebraska, a comprehensive fundraising initiative with priorities that include increasing permanent support for students and faculty.
When asked in 2006 to share her thoughts on giving, Cope told the University of Nebraska Foundation she enjoys giving to projects that are "going to do the most good."
"Projects that will help the most people and that have the support of other people," she said. "Philanthropy should be good and vibrant. It should be a social responsibility for those people who can afford to help others. And, if it is done in the right spirit, it should satisfy the giver as much as it does the recipient."
Ron and Carol Cope provided support to the University of Nebraska for more than 50 years. Their many contributions include support for construction of the Ron and Carol Cope Nebraska Safety Center at UNK and an endowment to provide it annual support. They also established an endowment for the UNK Alumni Association for support of alumni programs and established student scholarship funds, including ones that annually benefit music students at UNK and UNL. They were longtime supporters of UNK's athletics programs and provided major support for renovation and expansion of Cope Stadium in 2005.
Carol Cope was born Sept. 13, 1909, in Tate, Neb., in Pawnee County to Frank and Marilena Schrepel and had one brother. She graduated from Burchard High School and earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska in 1934. She taught music in North Platte and Lincoln before moving to California where she was a professional accompanist while completing a master's degree from UCLA.
The Copes were married in Steinauer on June 21, 1939, and together operated Claussens Shoes and Famous Shoe Stores for 30 years. They developed their estate by investing in farmland and early Berkshire-Hathaway stock.
Ron Cope was elected to the Nebraska Legislature in 1974. He died Jan. 12, 1992.
Carol Cope was involved in numerous organizations and foundations at local and state levels. She died on her 103rd birthday on Sept. 13, 2012.
The Kearney community will also celebrate the legacy of the Copes on Sept. 13 and 14. The "Walk in the Copes' Shoes" event coincides with Carol Cope's birthday by offering an opportunity for communitywide giving and service in celebration and memory of the Copes' generosity.
The University of Nebraska Foundation is an independent, nonprofit organization raising private gifts to support the University of Nebraska for more than 75 years. In 2012, donors provided the university with $165 million for scholarships, medical and other research, academic programs, faculty and buildings. All foundation funds are donor designated. The foundation's current comprehensive fundraising campaign, the Campaign for Nebraska, concludes in 2014. For more information, visit campaignfornebraska.org.