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Wichita couple’s philanthropy benefits scholarships

September 18, 2014

A desire to help students make career choices positioning them for lifelong success is one of the motivations a Wichita couple shares in contributing to Emporia State University’s comprehensive fund-raising campaign.

Roger D. and Carla (Bailey) Smith are making an estate gift in excess of $1 million to Now & Forever: The Campaign for Emporia State University.

A portion of the Smiths’ gift will benefit a Success Center fund. “We think that’s a very exciting and critical element for student success and retention,” said Carla Smith.

One of the campaign’s 18 Big Ideas, the Success Center will weave together academic advising, student retention services and a learning and tutoring center for students as they progress through their coursework. Selecting the necessary courses to graduate on time and identifying career options post-graduation are additional components of the Success Center.

The Smiths are also gifting a portion of their estate to establish two scholarships in their names to benefit graduates of public high schools in Wichita, where the couple lived and worked until retirement, Paola (Roger’s hometown), and Ellsworth (Carla’s hometown).

“Carla’s and Roger’s philanthropy speaks volumes about the crucial significance of recruiting and retaining students,” said DenaSue Potestio, Emporia State University Foundation president/CEO. “Their gifts will give us the tools we will use to grow enrollment and build Emporia State’s future.”

Roger and Carla first met at the institution of higher education known as Kansas State Teachers College. During the time they attended, the school’s name changed twice, becoming Emporia State University in 1977.

 “The education we received at Emporia State gave us a solid foundation for our careers,” said Roger. “In addition, we developed friendships that have lasted a lifetime.” He worked at Boeing/Spirit AeroSystems until retiring.

Carla Smith retired as an elementary school principal in Wichita after working in schools whose students were from low-income families. “I developed a passion for helping students understand the possibilities that an education can provide for their future,” she said, noting that one of the scholarships bearing their names will be directed toward Emporia State education majors.

“The incredible generosity of Carla and Roger makes the goal of becoming a teacher attainable for the fine minds of Kansas students,” said Dr. Ken Weaver, dean of The Teachers College.

“The preparation of teachers has changed dramatically over 150 years, but Emporia State’s goal has remained the same — to prepare professionals whose effective teaching results in student learning,” Weaver added.

“The Smiths’ philanthropy will make dreams come true, and Kansas children will be the ultimate beneficiaries of their gift,” said Dr. Michael D. Shonrock, Emporia State’s president.

“Our bell ringing celebrations are meant to honor our generous donors and sound a voice of success to Hornet Nation,” said Potestio.

Silent Joe, the campanile on campus and symbol for the Now & Forever campaign, was silent for many years because it was rung only when the Hornets had a home football team victory.

Now reframed as a beacon of achievement and symbol of accomplishment, Silent Joe rings out to celebrate successes across campus,” explained Potestio. “Forever, we are Silent No More.”

About Now & Forever

Launched in February 2013, Now & Forever: The Campaign for Emporia State University is a five- to seven-year effort with a working goal of $45 million. In only a little over two years, it is already the most successful fund-raising initiative in University history, with financial commitments exceeding $29 million.

The campaign supports student scholarships, academic departments and initiatives that advance Emporia State’s mission to recruit students, teach and retain them, encourage them to graduate with lower levels of student debt and ultimately put them on a path to a solid career.

For more information about opportunities to give to the Now & Forever campaign, visit, or contact DenaSue Potestio at 620-341-5440.

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