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A passion for architecture, reading sparks $2 million estate gift

Monday, January 11, 2016


LAWRENCE — Gratitude for the scholarship support they received in college and a lifelong passion for reading has led University of Kansas alumnus Michael Cummings and his wife, Pamela Miller, of Kansas City, Missouri, to make a $2 million gift commitment for the University of Kansas.

Their planned gift will provide approximately $1.6 million to establish the Michael A. Cummings Scholarship for architecture students in KU’s School of Architecture, Design & Planning. It also will provide $400,000 for Reach Out And Read Kansas City, a program that partners with doctors to provide books for children and encourage parents to read to them.

The scholarship will have a preference for architecture students from rural communities.

“Small towns aren’t as isolated now as when I grew up,” Michael Cummings said. “But there’s still a difference in resources that are available and in the kind of things you become aware of. I’m hoping this scholarship will help some people who will have a similar experience to what I have had, which is to find a career that wasn’t on their radar and from there to end up with a wonderful and fulfilling career.”

Pamela Miller said the scholarship expresses their gratitude to KU for making Michael’s career possible.

“I know how much he loves what he does and how good he is at it, and his career has brought tremendous benefit to our lives,” she said. “In turn we can help make a difference. We can not only pay back, but we also can pay forward.”

“We are grateful to Michael and Pamela for their love of our school,” said Dean Mahesh Daas. “This scholarship will give students who come from rural communities the opportunity to become part of the vision we have for all of our students, and that is that each should become a pioneering force for achieving global impact through design.”

Their gift for Reach Out and Read Kansas City reflects the Cummings’ lifelong interest in books. Michael Cummings recalled a set of encyclopedias and children’s books his parents bought for their family; and later, as a high school freshman, he developed a passion for reading.

Pamela Miller’s family encouraged reading.

“One of my favorite memories is of walking to the library every week with my mother to get books. And in the evenings, my father read to me,” she said. “I have all those wonderful memories of my father reading to me with his melodious voice. Later, when cancer took his voice away, and he had a laryngectomy, I still had all those wonderful memories of him reading to me. I could still hear his voice in my head.”

Pamela Miller described Reach Out And Read Kansas City as a win-win for children.

“I have volunteered with the program, and I know firsthand the wonderful work that it does. Reading is a wonderful experience that takes you away. It also introduces you to so many possibilities and adventures. It’s something every child should have.”

“We have long been grateful for Pamela and Michael’s generosity and support of our current program through annual gifts and sponsorship of our Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast,” said Mark Mattison, executive director of Reach Out and Read Kansas City. “The announcement of our inclusion in their estate planning is transformative for us, and it lays the foundation for our development of a planned giving program.”

Michael Cummings grew up in Burlington and earned bachelor’s degrees from KU in environmental design and architectural engineering in 1983. He is a principal with TK Architects, where he has worked since graduating from KU. The international architectural design firm focuses primarily on entertainment venues.

Pamela Miller grew up in North Kansas City, Missouri, and earned bachelor’s degrees in history and political science from Rockhurst University in 1980 and an MBA in 1988. Her career path included both trust services and fundraising for nonprofits, including KU Endowment and Rockhurst University. She retired from Children’s Mercy Hospital in 2014.

Reach Out and Read Kansas City is a nonprofit program at the University of Kansas Medical Center. It is a member of the national Reach Out and Read Program.

The gift counts toward Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas, the university’s comprehensive fundraising campaign. Far Above seeks support to educate future leaders, advance medicine, accelerate discovery and drive economic growth to seize the opportunities of the future.

The campaign is managed by KU Endowment, 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.


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Museum Events

Art Cart: Painted Fans
Saturday, January 20 | 1 p.m.-4 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, Sam and Connie Perkins Central Court, 317
1301 Mississippi St.
The Art Cart is a drop-in activity station where children and grown-ups enjoy hands-on art projects together, taking inspiration from original works of art. After traveling the world, Sallie Casey Thayer donated her collection of objects to KU to form what is now the Spencer Museum of Art. Learn about Mrs. Thayer and create a painted folding fan to start your own collection.

Slow Art Sunday: Steel Wool Peignoir
Sunday, January 21 | 2 p.m.-3 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, Kemper Family Foundations Balcony, 408
1301 Mississippi St.
Slow down at the Spencer and spend time getting to know one great work of art. Slow Art Sunday features one work for visitors to contemplate and converse about with Museum staff. In January, get to know Steel Wool Peignoir by Mimi Smith.

Science on Tap: The Cambrian: More than just Trilobites
Wednesday, January 24 | 7:30 p.m.
Free State Brewing Co., 636 Massachusetts St.
The Cambrian is a time in Earth’s history when many modern animal relatives make their first appearance. It is also a time when many bizarre animals without modern relatives appear in the fossil record. At this Science on Tap, Dr. Julien Kimmig will talk about the diversity of animals during this amazing period and what it can teach us about the future of life on earth. 

Career Close-ups: Developing a Career in the Museum World
Friday, January 26 | 2 p.m.-4 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, Auditorium 309
1301 Mississippi St.
Undergraduate and graduate students are invited to explore how any major can lead to a career in a cultural organization. A panel of museum professionals will share their experiences, followed by a networking reception and behind-the-scenes tours of KU’s museums. This year’s panelists include: Dina Bennett (Mulvane Art Museum, Washburn University), Glenn North (Black Archives of Mid-America), and Adrianne Russell (Cabinet of Curiosities). Advance registration is required at www.spencerart.ku.edu/career-closeups. Please register by January 24. Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/476618689399321/
Sponsored by the Spencer Museum of Art, KU Natural History Museum, University Career Center, and the Museum Studies Program.

Final Friday: Community and Culture Closing Celebration
Friday, January 26 | 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
Watkins Museum of History, 1047 Massachusetts St.
The Watkins, in partnership with the Max Kade Center and the Lawrence Opera Theatre, present an evening of 19th-century German-American music and cuisine.

Discovery Day: Celebrating Kansas
Sunday, January 28 | 1 p.m.-3 p.m.
KU Natural History Museum, 1345 Jayhawk Blvd.
In honor of Kansas Day, join us for hands-on activities that are all about Kansas wildlife, plants and fossils. 

Kenneth A. Spencer Lecture: An Evening with Eve L. Ewing: Poetry in Context
Wednesday, January 31 | 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts St.
Eve L. Ewing is a sociologist, poet, essayist, artist, and educator whose research focuses on racism, social inequality, urban policy, and the impact of these forces on American public schools and the lives of young people. Dr. Ewing earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University and is recognized as a leader and social influencer, especially in conversations involving academia, writing, black women, and the intersection of politics and popular culture. Sponsored by The Commons.

University in the Art Museum for Graduate Students
Thursday, February 1 | 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, 1301 Mississippi St.
University in the Art Museum introduces graduate students to opportunities for object-based teaching, learning, and research through collaborative partnerships with the Spencer Museum of Art. This workshop includes discussions led by graduate students in the departments of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Geography; and Atmospheric Science. Advance registration is required by Monday, January 29. Register online at https://spencerart.ku.edu/uam.

Extraordinary Animals: Awesome Adaptations
Sunday, February 4 | 1 p.m.-3 p.m.
KU Natural History Museum, 1345 Jayhawk Blvd.
At this new monthly animal event, parents and children are invited to learn about animals of Kansas. Museum Animal Specialist Ashley Welton will offer presentations about animal adaptations using touchable specimens from the museums collections at 1:15, 1:45 and 2:15 pm. 

FeBREWary at the Watkins
Thursday, February 15 | 6 p.m.-9 p.m.
Watkins Museum of History, 1047 Massachusetts St.
The Watkins, in partnership with Lawrence Beer Co., presents an evening of beer, food, and knowledge! Enjoy beer and a fascinating talk on brewing provided by Lawrence Beer Co., plus food from local restaurants and an informal museum tour. Tickets are $15 for DCHS members, $20 for non-members. You may sign up online or contact the museum at 785-841-4109. We recommend buying in advance. Ages 21 and over only, please. More information and registration.

Winter Table: An Evening of Herpetology
Wednesday, February 28 | 6:30 p.m.
KU Natural History Museum, 1345 Jayhawk Blvd.
A celebration of more than 100 years of KU herpetology research programs and the careers of Linda Trueb and Bill Duellman. Explore the Natural History Museum's reptile and amphibian collections and enjoy appetizers and drinks. Dine in the Panorama Gallery with KU herpetology scientists and students conducting reptile and amphibian research across the globe. 

6:30 pm: appetizers, drinks and science salon
7:00 pm: dinner and program
$50 per person 

Reserve your space now at the 2018 Winter Table by ordering tickets online. Tickets are $50 per person. You may also call 785-864-4450 to purchase by phone or you may purchase tickets at the museum lobby during business hours. Questions? Contact biodiversity@ku.edu or 785-864-4450.

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