Students at Fort Hays State University will benefit from the school’s largest ever gift. Memories of Earl and Nonie Field, and their gift to Fort Hays State University were celebrated Thursday in a news conference in the Memorial Union, attended by almost 200 people.
The Fields, childhood sweethearts, lifelong citizens of Hays and devoted alumni and supporters of Fort Hays State, made an extraordinary gift to FHSU in their estate plans.
“Nonie passed away in 2009 and Earl in 2013,” said Jason Williby, president and CEO of the FHSU Foundation. “At the time of Earl’s passing, their estate gift to Fort Hays State University was valued at approximately $20 million. Their gift is unequivocally life-changing for our students, but it is also the largest single gift ever made to FHSU,” he said. “The Fields Estate gift will be counted toward FHSU’s Journey campaign and will support student scholarships in perpetuity for the areas of art, athletics and music.”
FHSU President Emeritus Edward H. Hammond told the story of the Fields’ love for each other and for the college they attended, which became Fort Hays State University. It was the love story he learned during the 26 years that he knew the Fields.
“Higher education was always a very high priority for the Fields,” said Hammond. “Earl graduated in 1937 with degrees in economics and business and married Nonie a year later.”
The Fields started their adventure in life together with Earl as a teller for First National Bank of Hays and Nonie as a teacher. One of their true loves became Fort Hays State University, which Earl served as board member and president of the FHSU Alumni Association and a leader of the Tiger Half Century Club.
Hammond recounted that Earl Field, with Nonie’s support, built the Field Abstract and Title Co., Hays, and operated it from 1946 until he retired in 1979. He also served as chairman of the board for Heritage Savings Association and Heritage Financial Corp., Hays, and was president and chairman of the board for Farmers State Bank.
Together, Hammond said, they received the university’s Distinguished Service Award, served as members of the university’s first Capital Campaign Committee, were members of the Tiger Athlete Difference Makers, and in 1991 were inducted into the Tiger Sports Hall of Fame.
“Earl and Nonie did most things as a couple, but a couple with different interests,” said Hammond. “For Earl it was athletics, and for Nonie it was art and music.”
“It’s difficult to put into words the impact the Fields have had on the Hays community and Fort Hays State University,” said Curtis Hammeke, FHSU director of athletics.
“Earl and Nonie loved this university and realized that scholarships were the lifeline for the future. They didn’t anticipate that tuition and educational costs would do anything but rise over the years, and they wanted to assist in providing scholarships that would keep pace.”
Adam Flax is one of 164 students who have already benefitted from Fields scholarships.
“I was born and raised right here in Hays, Kansas, and am currently finishing my senior year as a music education major,” said Flax. “I have been fortunate to live in a community that holds music and the arts in great esteem – Fort Hays State University being no exception. I would like to thank the Fields on behalf of myself and so many others for allowing us the chance to not only grow and share our talents, but to keep music and the arts as an integral part of Fort Hays State University.”
Current FHSU President Tisa Mason wrapped up the conference by touching on the Fields’ monumental act of generosity and the beautiful legacy that they have left at Fort Hays State.
“We could not be more appreciative and delighted to honor the lives of Earl and Nonie Field,” said President Mason. “The impact that their charitable gift will have on the lives of current and future Tigers at Fort Hays State University is incredible. Earl and Nonie are giving educational opportunity to students in need, to students who often must work multiple jobs, and to students who might not otherwise be able to afford to attend college.” “I only wish that Earl and Nonie could see the faces and genuine joy of the students who will benefit from their gift,” she said.
Gifts to Fort Hays State University are 100-percent tax deductible. To learn more about the Fort Hays State University Foundation, and how you can support FHSU, visit https://foundation.fhsu.edu/ or contact the office at 785-628-5620 or by email to [email protected].