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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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