Arkansas State University has received the largest planned gift in the history of the institution. The Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn estate gift is named after two people who were life-long educators.
Wanda taught speech and drama at Hoxie High School and Jim was the principal and taught Spanish. Their gift of three-point-four million dollars will be used in numerous areas. Chancellor of Arkansas State University Dr. Kelly Damphousse.
“We have created several ways to honor this couple,” says Damphousse. “The Vaughn Excellence Fund will foster strategic initiatives aimed at student success. The Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn endowed scholarship will provide a full scholarship for a student in the College of Education. The Vaughn Gap Fund will be used to help students who have received some financial aid, but still has financial needs to be met.”
Those are just a few of the many ways the gift will be used. One way is for endowed professorships at Arkansas State University. Three faculty members were the first recipients of the professorships. Dr. John Hall is professor of psychology and counseling at A-State.
“This award of this magnitude has far reaching effects in the world of academics,” says Hall. “It will help bring teaching, research, and service together.
Dr. Cherisse Jones-Branch is a professor of history at A-State.
“I love the work that I do and it will allow me to continue my work in being an agricultural historian and an Arkansas historian,” says Branch. “It will help me to continue to represent this university nationally and internationally.”
Dr. Argelia Lorence is a professor of metabolic engineering. She was recognized for her research in rice varieties and for future research coming up.
“We are part of a consortium that is working on agricultural research,” says Lorence. “We want to make rice more tolerant to stresses and we at Arkansas State University will be working with two other universities in a $6 million research project that will look at rice and wheat varieties and how those varieties handle different stresses. This award allows me to continue this research.”
During the ceremony, the public reception area adjacent to the Carl R. Reng Student Union third-floor auditorium was named as the Vaughn Student Lounge. The Vaughn’s were remembered for their love of students, as told by former Hoxie High School student Charlotte Myers who has fond memories of the Vaughn’s.
“They were parents to those who didn’t have parents and they thought that every student mattered,” says Myers. “I know they would be dancing in heaven over this honor.”
Here are the full press releases from Arkansas State University about the estate gift and about the professors who received the endowed professorships:
JONESBORO – Education brought them together. Education was their passion. Education is their legacy.
How one identified Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn depended on how one came to know them, whether it was through their professional careers, their passion for the arts and culture, their enthusiasm for athletic competition involving A-State, or just their personal friendship.
Inducted in 1999 into the Legacy Society, for those who have made planned gifts to Arkansas State University, the Vaughns so strongly believed in the importance of higher education and its potential to positively impact young peoples' lives, they decided to leave a major portion of their estate to A-State.
This is the largest such gift in the institution's history. At final distribution, the unrestricted estate gift to the Arkansas State University Foundation Inc. is expected to be $3.69 million.
"Generations of A-State students will enjoy enriched lives because of the educational opportunities and initiatives Mr. and Mrs. Vaughn's generosity is making possible," stated Chancellor Kelly Damphousse. "We are indeed very grateful for their gift and their foresight."
After meeting while in graduate studies at the University of Oklahoma then getting married, their career path eventually took them to Hoxie High School, where she taught speech and drama and he was principal. Former students have often spoken fondly of the couple and their encouraging approach to learning.
Both A-State alumni, Mr. Vaughn earned a master's degree in education and Mrs. Vaughn earned her degree in elementary education. Previously, they had earned degrees at Oklahoma and Stephens College, respectively. They lived at Delaplaine for many years before moving to Jonesboro. He died in 2013; she in 2015.
"Jim and Wanda Lee would be very humbled, yet proud, of the impact that their endowment will have for the Arkansas State University Foundation, the current and future students, and professors of Arkansas State University," said Steve May, trustee for the Vaughn estate. "Both had a history as educators, so they knew very well that resources do make a difference in facilitating education. They were both very philanthropic and kind people, and this gift will hopefully inspire others to follow their lead.”
Based on the Vaughns' record of giving during their lives and their interest in various programs at Arkansas State, their gift will be allocated for endowed professorships, a scholarship for future educators, art gallery support, financial assistance to deserving students and student life enhancement:
-- A gift of $250,000 to establish an endowed professorship in the College of Education & Behavioral Science, to be awarded annually to an outstanding faculty member. The first recipient is Dr. John D. Hall, professor of psychology and counseling.
-- A gift of $250,000 to establish an endowed professorship in the College of Sciences and Mathematics, to be awarded annually to an outstanding faculty member. The first recipient is Dr. Argelia Lorence, professor of metabolic engineering.
-- A gift of $250,000 to establish an endowed professorship in the College of Liberal Arts and Communication, to be awarded annually to an outstanding faculty member. The first recipient is Dr. Cherisse Jones-Branch, professor of history.
-- A gift of $175,000 to establish the Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn Endowed Scholarship in the College of Education and Behavioral Science for an aspiring educator.
-- Creation of the Vaughn Gallery in the Bradbury Art Museum with a gift of $175,000, helping leverage a match from the Bradbury family to fully fund the Bradbury Art Museum endowment.
-- A gift of $2 million to establish the Vaughn Excellence Fund for special university initiatives.
-- The Vaughn Gap Fund, $400,000, which will generate income to support scholarships for promising students who receive some financial aid but who still have major need.
-- Naming of the public reception area adjacent to the Reng Student Union third-floor auditorium as the Vaughn Student Lounge. The Board of Trustees approved this action Friday.
"The Vaughns were such a vital part of the Arkansas State family, as alumni, as Chancellor's Cabinet members, and generous supporters of our mission -- to educate leaders, enhance intellectual growth, and enrich lives," said Dr. Jason Penry, vice chancellor for University Advancement. "This estate gift is a tremendous testament to their commitment to higher education."
The couple enthusiastically participated in the cultural and civic activities in the region. Mrs. Vaughn, who was particularly interested in theater, was joined by her husband to write, direct and produce historical dramas, such as "The Crowley's Ridge Story," "Mother of Counties" and "The Heritage Trail," in Greene and Lawrence Counties.
Mr. Vaughn, a Navy veteran and broadcaster early in his career, served on the Arkansas Educational Television Commission and was influential in introducing the high school Quiz Bowl competition. He also wrote educational books, computer programs and award-winning fiction about his boyhood home in Kentucky.
Their involvement with A-State also included her service on the board of the ASU Foundation, Inc., and his membership in the Chancellor's Cabinet and the ASU Museum Advisory Council. They also established the Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn Athletic Endowment for student-athletes.
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JONESBORO – Three veteran faculty members are the first recipients of Vaughn Endowed Professorships at Arkansas State University.
The professorships have been created through the generosity of an estate gift from James E. and Wanda Lee Vaughn of Jonesboro, formerly of Delaplaine.
Inducted in 1999 into the university's Legacy Society for donors of planned gifts, the Vaughns strongly believed in the importance of higher education and its potential to positively impact young peoples' lives.
Both A-State alumni, Mr. Vaughn earned a master's degree in education and Mrs. Vaughn earned her degree in elementary education.
Among the initiatives their legacy will provide at A-State will be three endowed professorships. Earnings from each endowment will be available to the selected professors to conduct research, create special learning opportunities for students, and support other facets of their academic pursuits.
Dr. John D. Hall
A gift of $250,000 establishes the Vaughn Professorship in the College of Education & Behavioral Science, where the first recipient is Dr. John D. Hall, professor of psychology and counseling.
Hall, who joined the A-State faculty in 1991, completed his bachelor's and master's degrees at A-State, then another master's and Ph.D. at the University of Cincinnati. He is coordinator of the nationally approved school psychology track of the educational specialist degree program in psychology and counseling.
"I have such an appreciation for the Vaughns, even though I never knew them, that they would provide this type of support. What an unbelievable act of kindness to this institution," Hall said. "It is true when they say, 'learning never ends,' even for professors. I think the professorship will be very supportive in terms of research. The impact will carry through to students in our program who go to professional conferences and present their research. Being an endowed professor is the highest honor a professor can receive, and I am grateful to all my colleagues in the college and my department."
Dr. Cherisse Jones-Branch
A gift of $250,000 establishes the Vaughn Professorship in the College of Liberal Arts and Communication. The first recipient is Dr. Cherisse Jones-Branch, professor of history.
Branch, a faculty member at A-State since 2003, was named Research Professor of the Month at A-State in February. She completed her master's at the University of Charleston and Ph.D. at Ohio State University. She wrote Crossing the Line: Women's Interracial Activism in South Carolina during and after World War II, which was published by University Press of Florida.
"I look at this as an opportunity to increase research into understudied subjects in Arkansas history, namely women's history, rural history and Arkansas in general," Jones-Branch commented. "I also want to make sure I am involved with producing the next generation of historians. That's a critical part of what I do and I take it very seriously. I want students to know this is a very valuable career. I want to be one of these people who help students realize all that's possible about being a historian, about valuing history, about unearthing and mining resources to tell these wonderful stories."
Dr. Argelia Lorence
A gift of $250,000 establishes the Vaughn Professorship in the College of Sciences and Mathematics. The first recipient is Dr. Argelia Lorence, professor of metabolic engineering.
Lorence, who came to A-State in 2005, completed her master's and Ph.D. at National Autonomous University of Mexico. She also conducts research at the Arkansas Biosciences Institute. Recently, she and the research team with which she is associated at two other universities received a major grant from the National Science Foundation to study how heat stress affects rice yields. She is co-principal investigator.
"I am honored and very humbled with this opportunity. The Vaughns had a passion for education, for history, and for rice, for agriculture, and I share a lot of those passions," Lorence said. "Like the Vaughns, I also have a passion for changing the lives of young people. My intention is to use the resources that will be available through the professorship to enhance the experiences of my students, both in the laboratory and in the classroom."