WICHITA — Doris Klose used to teach math at Horace Mann Junior High School in the late 1940s. The relationships she formed with her school and her students lasted only a few years and paid her only the small salary that junior high school teachers earned in the 1940s.
But those relationships today became a financial bonanza for Wichita State University students wanting to become math and science teachers.
Klose, who died in January, willed nearly $7.5 million in savings accrued by her and her husband to students aspiring to become teachers, university foundation leaders announced this morning.
The gift is so substantial that it will create scholarships paying the tuition, fees and book costs for dozens of students in the college of education every year, said Elizabeth King, president and CEO of the WSU Foundation.
King spent time with Doris Klose working out details of the gift in her last years.
At Klose's request, education costs will be paid for juniors and seniors at WSU with at least a 3.25 grade point average who want to become math and science teachers, The scholarships will cover costs both for in-state and out-of-state students.
"There are at least 35 to 40 students in the education school right now who meet all those criteria," King said.
This is the third-largest gift ever given to WSU, and possibly the largest gift ever given to aspiring teachers in math and science in higher education history, according to King.
"It's a substantial gift that is going to transform opportunities for students in the education school," she said.
Klose's husband Ralph, a former Wichita city treasurer who died in 2004, and like his wife a graduate of WSU, had already helped her establish a $500,000 scholarship for the college of education a few years ago; but it was Doris who decided after his death to dedicate the rest of their fortune to students studying to be math or science teachers.
"They lived modestly," King said of Ralph and Doris Klose. "Most people would never have thought they had this amount of wealth. They had a hard-work ethic and they thought highly of the value of making meaningful contributions to others."
The Kloses had no children, King said. Doris Klose graduated from WSU with a bachelor's degree in secondary education in 1944; Ralph graduated with a degree in economics in 1948. She taught at Horace Mann only a few years, but that experience, she later told King, was pivotal in her decision about what to do with her fortune after her death. After her time at Horace Mann, she worked in the several successful businesses her husband set up in town. Among other businesses, they started and ran what King said were the first two full-service laundromats in Wichita. Ralph Klose was city treasurer for several years, until 1987.
Doris Klose probably never told people around her how much money she had, King said. It wasn't something she wanted known. King, who got to know her well in the last few years, said that though she lived modestly in Wichita, she always dressed impeccably, wore pearls, and had a dry wit that delighted people around her. "She told me she never forgot her experiences as a teacher, or the teachers who worked around her," King said.