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Passions Drive Philanthropy

Work, community service provide ideas to support

Rosemary Menninger

From Foundation Focus - Summer 2019

The visions of many others have helped Rosemary Menninger shape her careers, her community involvement and her philanthropic efforts.

While her life has evolved by living in different cities and becoming a part of different programs, each gift she has made to Washburn University has been done with intention and her belief in the power of the programs. She has given to the School of Nursing because nursing students who were caretakers for her parents when they were ill conveyed such deep respect for their school’s program and faculty; to the Washburn Law Clinic because of the masterful help it gave her in assisting the local gardening association, Topeka Common Ground, earn its non-profit status; and to Mabee Library because as a Friends of Mabee Library board member she has been able to see it evolve into a forward-thinking place for students.

Menninger, ba ’84, bfa ’85, was raised in Topeka, and as a child, developed a love for art while taking classes at the Mulvane Art Museum. After graduation, her life took her to Arizona, California and Colorado working on textbooks and grant proposals, and developing community gardening programs. When she came home for Christmas one year, her mother broke her back and her father suffered a stroke. She knew she needed to stay in Topeka to help care for her parents.

“When I moved back to Topeka, I didn’t have any way to make a living,” she said. “I started going to parties at Washburn’s International House because I didn’t know anyone here.”

She met the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences one evening, and he promised to help her get enrolled so she could finish her degree in art. She made friends with other non-traditional students, learned from and developed a great admiration for Professor Ed Navone, and was able to return to the Mulvane Art Museum and teach classes this time. Her degree, along with a teaching certificate, turned into a 25-year career as an art teacher with Topeka Public Schools.

Throughout her career, she developed a sense of philanthropy from not only the impact she saw in her work, but what she saw in her parents, Karl and Jeanetta Menninger, as they built the Menninger Foundation.

“Even on our family vacations, they would be fundraising and visiting possible donors, and they sometimes brought me along,” she said.

Her philanthropy at Washburn is often inspired by her involvement in the Washburn Women’s Venture Partners where she sees funding proposals from campus.

Over the years, it has led to a donation of land, Karlyle Woods, for the biology department and gifts to the Dr. Karl A. Menninger Endowed Scholarship in Criminal Justice.

Supporting criminal justice has been a part of her entire life. At Christmas when she was a child, her father would leave Christmas dinner to go and have a meal with prison inmates because he saw how much they suffered. Her father also worked with Ted Heim, the former chair who established the criminal justice department at Washburn, in making sure the Topeka jail was built in the most modern way possible with individual rooms and recreation areas.

“The criminal justice system was also something that drove my heart in San Francisco as I worked in heroin detox and started gardens for juvenile detention centers,” she said.

Menninger said she is thankful for the involvement she has been able to have in so many different programs at the University.

“Washburn gave me so many opportunities that enriched my life,” she said. “It allowed me to change careers and build a life in Topeka that just embraced me.”

Ichabod Bench

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